Sport England are perming three from eight for their wings and full-back. Chris Ashton favours the right wing

The Exeter wing gets his chance in Paris against France

Gerrard: the stage is set for Rooney, as long as he can control his frustrations

Steven Gerrard first encountered Wayne Rooney in that infamous Merseyside derby in December 2002 when the Liverpool captain somehow managed to escape a red card for a two-footed lunge on Gary Naysmith. But like most of Merseyside, Gerrard had heard whispers of the Everton protégé long before then.

Johnson tells tourists to fight for World Cup spots

History tells us that a trip to Australia is England's second-worst nightmare: only in New Zealand are they made to feel more inadequate, and they're going there next. No wonder Martin Johnson describes this as "a real tour and a real test" – one that will go a very long way towards shaping the red-rose challenge at the World Cup in 15 months' time. It is the last visit to the southern hemisphere before the great global gathering in All Black country and, it can be argued, the last opportunity for a number of celebrated performers, British and Irish Lions among them, to declare their candidacy.

Wales lose Powell for New Zealand tour

Andy Powell has been ruled out of Wales' game against world champions South Africa tomorrow and the two-Test New Zealand tour. The Cardiff Blues back-row forward had been recalled by the Wales coach, Warren Gatland, following the infamous golf buggy incident during this season's Six Nations Championship, but tore a thigh muscle in training. Newport-Gwent Dragons flanker Gavin Thomas will take Powell's place on tour, which features games against the All Blacks in Dunedin and Hamilton this month.

Welsh bullish despite loss of prop Jenkins

Wales have put a brave face on star prop Gethin Jenkins' absence from their Tests against the Tri-Nations heavyweights South Africa and New Zealand next month.

Robinson praises variety of Scotland tour schedule

Scotland head coach Andy Robinson has welcomed their international tours schedule for the next eight years, which was announced yesterday by the International Rugby Board. The Scots will host Australia, New Zealand and South Africa a total of nine times between 2012 and 2018, as well as facing Argentina at Murrayfield on three occasions.

Cockerill set to escape Twickenham final ban

The signs are that Richard Cockerill, one of English rugby's more animated figures, will be allowed into Twickenham for the Guinness Premiership final between Leicester and Saracens this weekend, which is more than can be said for his opposite number Brendan Venter, who has already been declared persona non grata by the stiff upper lip types on the governing body. "If the union deems my behaviour has been sufficiently bad to merit a charge of misconduct, it's up to them," the former England hooker said yesterday. "As far as I'm aware, that's not the case."

Flatman's return for Bath could be boost for England

England's great leaps forward in the Test arena have not been blindingly obvious this season – to most eyes, they have taken a series of small steps backwards – and their work in the scrum, the very foundation of their game, has been particularly unimpressive. This might be about to change, just in time for the build-up to next year's World Cup. The Bath prop David Flatman, last capped in 2002, has recovered from his latest injury hassle and is ready to challenge for a place on next month's five-match trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Bates proud of Newcastle achievements

Steve Bates insists he is proud of Newcastle's achievements this season despite having his contract terminated as Falcons rugby director.

Newcastle sack coach Bates despite winning relegation battle

Falcons take Premiership's tally to three in a week with Alan Tait expected to replace 'disappointed' Scot

World Cup winner Catt announces retirement

England World Cup winner Mike Catt will make his final appearance for London Irish in next Saturday's Guinness Premiership clash against Northampton.

Disgraced Richards deserves award nomination says McGeechan

Sir Ian McGeechan believes banned former Harlequins boss Dean Richards deserves his nomination for a top European Rugby Cup award.

Rankings offer plain truth of the way of the world

There is little for the Tri-Nations to fear from the northern hemisphere, believes Chris Hewett

Hodgson drafted in for England

Fly-half's call-up as cover for injured Wilkinson a blow for relegation-threatened Sale

Thomas cross-code switch will boost League in Wales

Crusaders will today unveil Gareth Thomas as the signing they hope will transform the profile of rugby league in Wales. The former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain is 36 in July and the two-year contract he is thought to have agreed would take him almost to his 38th birthday.

Wales drop Andy Powell after golf buggy arrest

There are many famous landmarks related to Welsh rugby. So prodigious were the valleys north of Cardiff in producing world-beating number 10s they became known as the Outside Half Factory.

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