Woodward hopes for Tindall return

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The Independent Online

Judging by the way his side played at Twickenham at the weekend, Clive Woodward needs all the preparation time he can get as he contemplates the Six Nations fixture with Wales on 20 March. With this in mind, he intends to announce his squad on Thursday - unusually early - and is hoping that two Bath players, the centre Mike Tindall and the lock forward Danny Grewcock, are granted an opportunity to prove their fitness in their club's second-string match against London Irish on Saturday.

Tindall, back on his feet after weeks of injury trouble, has not played for England since the World Cup final; Grewcock missed the comprehensive defeat by Ireland after damaging his Achilles tendon in a cup match at Leeds. Both are renowned for their ultra-physical approach to the game - an approach conspicuous by its absence when the champions of everything surrendered their long unbeaten home record to the Irish.

John Connolly, the Bath coach, said yesterday that a number of high-profile internationals would feature in the second-team game at the Recreation Ground, and while he declined to name names, it is highly likely that Tindall and Grewcock will be among them. If both are deemed fit come Woodward's final selection call next Monday, they are certain to face the Welsh.

A number of personnel changes are on the cards. Iain Balshaw, another Bath player, has little chance of retaining his place at full-back - Jason Robinson will probably revert to the position, thereby creating a space for Tindall at outside centre - and there is a strong possibility that James Simpson-Daniel of Gloucester will relieve Ben Cohen of his position on the wing.

Grewcock will push out one of last Saturday's locks - the decision between Steve Borthwick and Ben Kay will be exceptionally tight - while Chris Jones of Sale also can expect to replace Joe Worsley on the blind-side flank. Steve Thompson of Northampton is also under pressure.

Northampton announced the signing of Robbie Kempson, the powerful Springbok prop, from Ulster, yesterday. The 30-year-old South African has been playing in Belfast under Alan Solomons, his countryman, for the last two seasons. Now that Solomons is Northampton-bound himself - he will take over as head coach at the end of the campaign - Kempson has plumped for another change of scenery.

Rob Andrew, the director of rugby at Newcastle, has said that Jonny Wilkinson, his super-hero stand-off, was playing an increasing role in training following recent surgery to repair damaged nerves in his neck, and may return to active duty as early as mid-April.

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