Versatility should be hallmark of England's squad

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The Independent Online
Mark Mapletoft and Paul Sampson are likely to add to England's armoury of versatility when the squad is announced tomorrow for the two-Test tour of Argentina next month.

Gloucester's Mapletoft, leading the country's scorers with 450 domestic points, can operate at stand-off or full-back. Sampson, the Wasps sprinter, is a wing or full-back. Add Mike Catt, whose ability to appear in three positions has been mysteriously ignored by the South Africa-bound Lions, and England have the necessary options for a physically demanding tour, even though there are only six games.

Sampson could spearhead a small representation from England's under-21 generation, as the national selectors try to continue the process of filtering in younger players, after bringing in 11 new caps this season.

They can afford to experiment in the backs, because most of the Five Nations players outside the scrum are unwanted by the Lions and will therefore provide the experience in Argentina.

Phil de Glanville will be surrounded by a host of familiar faces, including the wings Jon Sleightholme and Adedayo Adebayo, plus Catt and the scrum- half Andy Gomarsall. There might be another club colleague, too, if the selectors have as high an opinion of Matt Perry as Bath do.

Tom Beim, of Sale, is a wing candidate, along with the A-team regular Dan Luger, while Richmond's Jim Fallon could belatedly gain a Test cap, after being in sight of honours before he crossed over to rugby league.

Kyran Bracken will be the second scrum-half and in the pack it will be a policy of mixing the capped players with the best of the A team. The props should be Kevin Yates, John Mallett, Darren Garforth and Rob Hardwick. The top-choice hookers are Richard Cockerill and Phil Greening.

At lock, Garath Archer and Dave Sims might be backed by John Fowler and Dave Baldwin - the pair who have provided a significant foundation for Sale's success.

In the back row, Ben Clarke and Chris Sheasby's experience will blend with Martin Corry, Tony Diprose and possibly Steve Ojomoh, with the Harlequins pair Rory Jenkins and Bill Davison also having a chance.

With 18 Englishmen on the Lions tour, some players who were way down the pecking order at the start of this season will come back home with a couple of caps.

They might be getting their chance through the back door, but against the Pumas on their own pampas, they will earn the red velvet headgear.

Will Carling took a similar mix of old hands and newcomers to Argentina in 1990 and could only draw a harder than expected series 1-1.