World falls in on Walker

Rugby union diary
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The Independent Online
SO WALES are off to South Africa without Nigel Walker, the fastest international winger in the world. Walker's bathroom, bedroom, office even, have become mini-gymnasiums recently, weights permanently pumped to get his troublesome shoulder in shape for selection. "Now it's all come to nothing," said the crestfallen winger last week. He won't, of course, be the only disappointed stay-at-home. In fact, a rather tasty international side of unselected players could have a good shot at the Webb Ellis Trophy.

First on the team sheet would be Michael Jones, the All Black who is at present third-choice open-side for New Zealand and looks likely to be left at home. In the pack with him would be John Hall and Nigel Redman, the two Englishmen, Peter Clohessy, the Irish prop who ruled himself out because of business commitments, and, most controversially, Norman Hadley.

Hadley, the Canada and Wasps lock, has incurred the wrath of his national selectors for suggesting that Ian Birtwell, the coach, should be replaced. Will Birtwell not see sense and relent? "It seems unlikely since I haven't spoken to him since December, despite leaving messages," Hadley said. "And if I was to be called up at the last minute, I just don't think I could gear up to it in such a short time."

REJECTS XV: P Hull (England); N Walker (Wales), M Cooper (NZ), N Davies (Wales), N Woods (Ireland); N Botha (SA), A Macabiau (France); A Sharp (Scotland), U Schmidt (SA), P Clohessy (Ireland), N Redman (England), N Hadley (Canada), M Jones (NZ), J Hall (England), M Galwey (Ireland).

HE WAS always slightly crazed as a player, but it seems that Jean-Pierre Rives has now lost all touch with reality. Evidence comes in an interview with Eddie Butler on the television series The Rugby Hall of Fame, in which the former French captain talks about sculpture, painting, love ... anything apart from the game. "Eddie was pleading with him to talk about rugby," said the producer Jeff Foulser. Andy Irvine, Gerald Davies and others have been able to recall intricate details of their playing days but, when pushed, Rives could only remember one game, a match in South Africa when he was knocked unconscious. "He's lost it," Butler said. "He was very good on art, but he simply cannot equate all this with any memory bank." Viewers hoping to see this clip of the French fruit cake, however, will have to move abroad, for British TV stations have sadly so far passed up the chance to screen the series.

Jeremy Guscott is another in the Hall of Fame who viewers may miss. Guscott wasn't in the original line-up, but was first replacement for Will Carling when the programme-makers' request for a two-hour interview (for a £1,000 fee) was rejected. The England captain, Foulser said, "doesn't get out of bed for less than £5,000".

IT MAY be of little consolation, but those having trouble getting World Cup tickets could, instead, attend the Parliamentary World Cup in South Africa two weeks earlier. More than 120 MPs will take part with teams from Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, France, South Africa and a World XV which will be captained by Hugo Porta, the former Argentine stand-off who is now the national ambassador to South Africa.

The two favourites are New Zealand, captained by David Kirk, who is now the Prime Minister's chief policy adviser, and South Africa who are unbeaten since apartheid ended and are particularly strong on the right wing where General Bantu Holomissa, the deputy minister for tourism, is a threat. The Commons and Lords team is captained by Phillip Oppenheim, the junior employment minister, and has Lord Rennel (otherwise known as Tremayne Rodd, the 1962 British Lion) at scrum-half, but they are self- confessed underdogs.

Some might question such a pastime for so many world rulers, but an economic seminar has been arranged mid-tournament to add a touch of legitimacy.