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Ravi Bopara can"t duck facts

Struggling Ravi just can't duck the facts as curse of No 6 slot strikes again

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UPDATED:

21:12 GMT, 20 July 2012

At some point fate may cut Ravi Bopara a bit of slack. But not quite yet.

Arriving at the crease for his long-delayed return to Test cricket, he walked straight into the kind of perfect storm that is apparently etched into his contract: South Africa had shaken off the first day's rust, Dale Steyn was pawing at the turf, and the ball was singing songs under grey skies.

To his fifth delivery, Bopara narrowly survived Steyn's wild-eyed shout for leg-before. To his sixth, he thought about hooking the world's fastest bowler, changed his mind halfway through the shot, and edged the ball through to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers with the bat resembling a periscope.

Duck for cover: Ravi's wayward stroke saw him return to the hutch without scoring

Duck: Ravi's wayward stroke saw him return to the hutch without scoring

And that was that: in only his third Test innings since he was put out of his Ashes misery in 2009, and his first since last August's fourth Test against India, Bopara was out for a duck – his fifth in 18 knocks at this level.

It came with a hapless predictability, confirming his reputation as a man who might successfully avoid the cracks on the pavement and then trip over a black cat.

England's No 6 slot is the closest thing in this side to a poisoned chalice.

Eoin Morgan was dropped after a horror tour of the UAE, while Samit Patel wasn't even trusted to bat there in Sri Lanka, where Bopara picked up a typically untimely injury. Bopara is far from the default selection.

Steyn on his copybook: Ravi must wonder when his luck will change

Steyn on his copybook: Ravi must wonder when his luck will change

He has been in good form this summer, and looked the part in the recent one – day thrashing of Australia. He even picked up a few cheap wickets.

But he has spent most of his on-off Test career trying to come to terms with the fact that he followed three successive ducks in Sri Lanka in December 2007 with three successive hundreds against West Indies – and then a disaster of an Ashes series in which he managed 105 runs in seven innings from No 3.

If his Test career has been the story of an identity crisis, then at least most people agreed this time the stage was set. That, though, is when Bopara seems to run into trouble.

Ashes to ashes: Bopara endured a torrid time during the 2009 series

Ashes to ashes: Bopara endured a torrid time during the 2009 series

Saracens yet to release Andy Farrell to England

Sarries in no rush to release Farrell to England until compensation is agreed

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 4 April 2012

The RFU’s attempts to recruit Andy Farrell as part of England’s management remains unresolved as Saracens indicated they had not yet received a suitable offer to release their head coach.

With the Aviva Premiership champions preparing for a heavyweight Heineken Cup quarter-final showdown against Clermont Auvergne at Vicarage Road on Sunday, the club are determined to finalise negotiations with the union at the earliest opportunity.

While Saracens are more or less resigned to losing the former Great Britain rugby league captain, they will not free Farrell from his long-term contract without adequate compensation from Twickenham.

Waiting game: Andy Farrell of Saracens is wanted by England

Waiting game: Andy Farrell of Saracens is wanted by England

Stuart Lancaster, installed as the
long-term England head coach, wants to retain the cross-code
international as one of his assistants.

Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths said: ‘We are in contact and we are eager to bring it to a conclusion. But there is a process. We don’t control that process.

‘There is some uncertainty and uncertainty can be a distraction, especially in a week like this ahead of a big game. It is similar to the distraction that Spurs have encountered with Harry Redknapp, so we’re anxious to avoid that. But there’s not an awful lot you can do about that. I don’t think it has had any effect on the team this week. It genuinely hasn’t. It’s just not been spoken about.

Dream team: Stuart Lancaster (centre) wants Farrell in his set-up

Dream team: Stuart Lancaster (centre) wants Farrell in his set-up

‘The default position is that Andy is a Saracens coach. If someone wants to make something happen then the onus is on them.’

Bath meanwhile confirmed that their director of rugby, Sir Ian McGeechan, would be leaving the club at the end of the season.

Sale have confirmed that they will be based at the new, 12,000-capacity Salford City Stadium from next season, in a ground-share arrangement with Salford City Reds rugby league team.

RFU close to appointing Andy Farrell as England coach

RFU close in on Farrell appointment as Lancaster looks to build his backroom team

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UPDATED:

21:18 GMT, 31 March 2012

Andy Farrell's appointment as England's backs coach could be confirmed on Monday after Saracens' chief executive Ed Griffiths indicated he will be meeting the RFU again.

Saracens have resigned themselves to losing Farrell, 37, but are negotiating compensation for the two years left on his contract and want it done before next Sunday's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Clermont Auvergne.

Country calling: The RFU hope to name Andy Farrell as a member of the England backroom team this week

Country calling: The RFU hope to name Andy Farrell as a member of the England backroom team this week

Griffiths said. 'It is not complicated to work out what the discussions are about but the default position is that Andy is the head coach of Saracens.'