ONE OF the most phenomenal successes in the brief history of Courage league rugby has been the rise and rise of Rotherham, with four promotions in seven seasons. And one man has taken the ride all the way: Richard Selkirk, the team's No 8, has not misseda single game.
In playing all 83 of Rotherham's matches, he is the only man in the country to have gone the full distance with any club and the journey has not been at all unpleasant. In losing only nine times, Rotherham are the least-defeated team in the league, Bath coming in next with 12.
The second of Rotherham's defeats will never be forgotten by Selkirk. It came on the last day of the first season of league rugby. Wharfedale scored a disputed try in the fifth minute of injury time to win promotion and consign Rotherham to a second season in North East Two. Selkirk prefers to recall his greatest moment with Rotherham: the last day of last season when their passage to League Four became a procession with a 54-19 thrashing of Bradford.
When the South Yorkshire club arrived in National League Four this season, it was assumed that they would be in for a period of consolidation. "However," says Selkirk modestly, "we seem to be doing reasonably well again." What he means is that Rotherham have lost only one of their nine games and are favourites to go up again.
Rotherham's run may continue, but Selkirk's definitely will not. He is due at a wedding in Trinidad and will miss the penultimate two games of this season. "My wife is matron of honour at the wedding which was specially organised around us," he says. "She is a schoolteacher, so they planned it for the holidays. Unfortunately they didn't arrange it around rugby."
So Selkirk, a rugby development officer for the area, will be absent for the fixture against Reading, their closest rivals. He hopes that, by then, promotion will already have been sewn up. "Otherwise I'll have to stay fit for the last game of the season. It shouldn't be too hard though - and preferable to trudging up and down muddy pitches in South Yorkshire. Some swimming in the Caribbean perhaps, some scuba-diving and maybe some water-skiing too."
DICCON EDWARDS, the Leicester and England Under-21 centre who comes from Yorkshire, has been given the opportunity of joining the Welsh squad. So, apparently, has Tony Diprose, the Saracens flanker from Essex. Edwards has a Welsh father and has been quantifying his feelings of Welshness all week. "People ask: `Do you feel Welsh?' But that's something I don't really know. I don't feel English particularly either." Thus it was after much deliberation that Edwards decided to accept the Welsh offer; Diprose, who has a Welsh grandfather, did not need a moment's thought. The first he knew about his future as a Welshman was when he read about it in a national newspaper last Thursday. "I've not shown any interest in playing for Wales. It hadn't entered my headand no one's ever suggested it to me. My ambition is to play for England," he said. Initially he found the news amusing, but then realised that it might compromise his standing with the England selectors. So Saracens put out a press release to end all doubt: their man is definitely English.
RUGBY clubs in Lancashire should beware: at large is a thief prone to displays of nakedness. The villain's modus operandi is to pitch up for training, explaining to players that he is a club veteran, and then gain their confidence by stripping with them in the changing room. When the players go out to train, he cleans out their pockets and then leaves without so much as muddying his knees. He struck last at Manchester RFC last week, he is 5ft 10in tall with greyish-black hair and a moustache. Police have no clues, though, as to how he can be recognised in a state of undress.
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