Warm welcome for the hero

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Believe it or not, there were reasons for Dean Richards' exclusion from the England team - though you would never have thought so after the eulogistic greeting he received when the players trained yesterday in preparation for Saturday's attempt to prevent a Scottish Grand Slam.

"He is a one-off and that's why we have chosen him," Jack Rowell, the manager, said at Twickenham. "We believe at this stage of the championship an injection of Dean Richards will give the forwards and team a lift." Indeed, the No 8's medicinal properties were shown on the previous two occasions when he was dropped.

In the end Geoff Cooke, Rowell's predecessor, had to bring him back both times, partly for what he does himself but equally for the effect he has on others both among his own team and the opposition. Once again he is not only recalled but as pack leader with a decisive input both tactically on the field and strategically off it.

"This is a strategic selection and he will tighten the forward play. This is not an about-face," Rowell added, fooling no one. Richards's sudden importance is such that he formed a think-tank with Will Carling, the captain, Rowell and the co-selectors, Les Cusworth and Mike Slemen, on Saturday evening to determine how to nullify Scotland.

The puzzle is why it is different now from when England played France and Wales. "Within every team's drive for more mobility, there have to be aspects of the game when you have to be tight, pull things together for the greater good," Rowell explained. Try telling that to the Scots.

Yesterday Mike Catt and the new lock, Garath Archer, trained despite injuries which in Archer's case, though not Catt's, had put him out of the Bristol-Bath cup tie. Meanwhile at Murrayfield the Scotland wing, Craig Joiner, was passed fit after the ankle injury which caused his early departure from the Welsh match nine days ago. Bryan Redpath has flu and took no part in the main training session.

The Ireland wing, Simon Geoghegan, has been given until Thursday to recover from a hamstring injury which has kept him out since Ireland lost to Scotland, with Darragh O'Mahony of Lansdowne the likely replacement if necessary against Wales on Saturday. Two Irish forwards, Jeremy Davidson and Victor Costello, are carrying leg injuries, as is Wales' Emyr Lewis.