Underwood back in frame for England

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
Rugby Union


It has been a long eight months for the England wing, Tony Underwood. His last competitive match was last June, in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, or more correctly, against Jonah Lomu. Since then there has been the pizza commercial reminding Underwood of the nightmare that is Lomu, a knee operation and a change of clubs, from Leicester to Newcastle.

But after one match for Rob Andrew's side - a friendly against West Hartlepool last weekend - and a possible appearance in the Pilkington Cup at home to Harlequins tomorrow, weather permitting, the England manager, Jack Rowell, has deemed Underwood ready to be considered for international duty. The right wing was yesterday named in a 35-strong training squad as England begin the month-long build-up to next month's Calcutta Cup meeting with the Five Nations favourites, Scotland, at Murrayfield.

There are no surprises but five others are added to the squad from last month, with the significant inclusion of a third hooker, Leicester's Richard Cockerill, who is joined by his club-mate, the prop Darren Garforth. Also promoted to the expanded squad are the West Hartlepool full-back, Tim Stimpson, and the locks Gareth Archer and Dave Sims.

The Orrell hooker, Martin Scott, bucked a trend by opting out of the Scotland A game against Wales A at Swansea next Friday. Scott had been picked on the bench but yesterday created a little bit of rugby history by becoming the first player to put club before country, thus flying in the face of a recent International Board statement which said: "The Council will take firm action to ensure that individual players are released for international duty regardless of their country of residence."

Crucially, the statement continues: "The Council has extended the requirement for player availability from national teams to national squads."

The A team manager, Doug Morgan, said: "To an extent, I am disappointed with Martin's request. If you are selected for the squad of 21 players you should make provision to be available."

The IB yesterday revealed that it has handed out pounds 7.4m over the last five years since the 1991 World Cup to help poorer unions develop the game. Some 55 of the IB's 71 member countries have benefited to date.

ENGLAND TRAINING SQUAD: Full-backs: M Catt (Bath), J Callard (Bath), T Stimpson (West Hartlepool). Wings: J Sleightholme (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester), A Adebayo (Bath), T Underwood (Newcastle), D Hopley (Wasps). Centres: W Carling (Harlequins), J Guscott (Bath), P de Glanville (Bath), W Greenwood (Harlequins). Stand-offs: P Grayson (Northampton), A King (Bristol Univ). Scrum-halves: M Dawson (Northampton), K Bracken (Bristol), A Gomarsall (Wasps). Forwards: Props: G Rowntree (Leicester), J Leonard (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), D Garforth (Leicester). Hookers: M Regan (Bristol), G Dawe (Bath), R Cockerill (Leicester). Locks: M Bayfield (Northampton), M Johnson (Leicester), G Archer (Bristol), B Sims (Gloucester). Back row: T Rodber (Northampton), B Clarke (Bath), L Dallaglio (Wasps), D Richards (Leicester), S Ojomoh (Bath), A Diprose (Saracens), A Robinson (Bath).