Danny Grewcock, whose angelic features do not sit easily alongside his growing reputation as one of rugby's serial offenders, will fly with England to New Zealand next week, always assuming Clive Woodward, the national coach, does not become a Quaker overnight and embrace pacifism in all its forms. Henry Paul, meanwhile, has not made the cut for the senior tour party, despite the brilliance of his contribution to Gloucester's championship push over the last four months. Maybe he should start splitting some heads, as well as defences.
Grewcock's selection despite his sending-off during the Parker Pen Challenge Cup final at Reading on Sunday - he was dismissed for raining blows, albeit of the half-hearted variety, on the esteemed head of Lawrence Dallaglio - and subsequent two-week suspension was no great surprise, for Woodward has always backed his athletic lock forward to the nth degree. The coach was on his best Rumpole of the Bailey form again yesterday, insisting that the Bath captain was almost as innocent as his looks suggest.
"I watched the incident and I didn't regard it as a red card," he said, before confirmation that there would be no appeal from Bath. "Is Danny a liability? I don't see it that way - quite the opposite. To me, he is one of the world's best players. I wouldn't pick anyone I felt couldn't control themselves under the utmost pressure. In this case, it wasn't the brightest thing for Danny to have done, but I can also understand how the situation arose. Anyway, the disciplinary people told him that the length of his ban was a reflection of his exemplary record. Those are the facts."
Exemplary? An interesting description to be sure. Rather like Martin Johnson, his engineroom colleague during the 2001 Lions tour of Australia, Grewcock is 95 per-cent legal aggression and five per-cent over the top. It may be that the 95 per cent would not exist without the dodgier remainder, but that is for the psychologists to fathom out. Woodward wants Grewcock because he is a hard case, hard enough to deal with Southern hemisphere teams in all their fury. The fact that he was sent off during England's last tour of New Zealand was clearly not in the coach's thinking, not least because he is available only for the Wallaby leg of this trip.
Paul, on the other hand, is unlucky. Rightly pilloried for some of his performances over the last two seasons - his display at full-back during Gloucester's Heineken Cup defeat by Munster in January was lamentable - the former rugby league international from New Zealand is beginning to find his touch in union. "He's settled on his best position - inside centre," said Jim Mallinder of Sale, who will coach him on the second-string Churchill Cup trip to Canada next month. "He still has the World Cup in his sights, so this is a massive chance for him."
Woodward is particularly exercised by the centre positions, hence the selection of Stuart Abbott, the naturalised South African from Wasps, alongside Will Greenwood, Mike Tindall, Jamie Noon and Ben Johnston in a 37-man party for the senior games against the New Zealand Moaris, the All Blacks and the Wallabies. (Half a dozen of the main party will fly to Vancouver to bolster the Churchill Cup squad after the Maori match in New Plymouth a week next Monday). Abbott is regarded as one of the best midfield steppers in the Premiership and his clean-cut running has been central to his club's up-table surge since Christmas.
The same might be said for Alex King, the Wasps outside-half. A sorry figure in New Zealand in 1998, King has added a potent kicking game and a more secure defence to his sophisticated passing and organisational skills. Now that Mike Catt's star is in descent - "Mike is nowhere near ready after a season of injury, so we're leaving him behind to work on his conditioning," Woodward said - he has a genuine shot at a place among the World Cup élite.
SQUAD FOR AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND TOUR (9-21 June): Backs: J Lewsey (Wasps), J Robinson (Sale), I Balshaw (Bath), B Cohen (Northampton), D Luger (Harlequins), J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), W Greenwood (Harlequins), M Tindall (Bath), S Abbott (Wasps), B Johnston (Saracens), J Noon (Newcastle), J Wilkinson (Newcastle), P Grayson (Northampton), A King (Wasps), M Dawson (Northampton), K Bracken (Saracens), A Gomarsall (Gloucester). Forwards: J Leonard (Harlequins), M Worsley (London Irish), T Woodman (Gloucester), G Rowntree (Leicester), P Vickery (Gloucester), S Thompson (Northampton), M Regan (Leeds), D West (Leicester), M Johnson (Leicester, capt), B Kay (Leicester), D Grewcock (Bath), S Borthwick (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), R Hill (Saracens), J Worsley (Wasps), N Back (Leicester), A Hazell (Gloucester), P Volley (Wasps), M Corry (Leicester), L Dallaglio (Wasps).
SQUAD FOR CHURCHILL CUP (14-28 June) (plus Test match against Japan, 6 July): Backs: D Scarbrough (Leeds), M Horak (London Irish), P Christophers (Bristol), M Cueto (Sale), H Paul (Gloucester), F Waters (Wasps), O Barkley (Bath), D Walder (Newcastle), M Wood (Wasps), N Walshe (Sale). Forwards: D Flatman (Saracens), N Hatley (London Irish), W Green (Wasps), A Sheridan (Bristol), A Titterrell (Sale), P Greening (Wasps), M Cairns (Saracens), T Palmer (Leeds), A Brown (Bristol), C Jones (Sale), H Vyvyan (Newcastle), P Anglesea (Sale), D Hyde (Leeds)Reuse content