Tag Archives: loosehead

Gloucester 12 London Irish 18: Skivington double gives Exiles important win

Gloucester 12 London Irish 18: Skivington double gives Exiles important win

Andrew Baldock, Press Association


20:22 GMT, 5 January 2013



20:22 GMT, 5 January 2013

Relegation candidates London Irish ripped up the Aviva Premiership form book by stunning title play-off contenders Gloucester at Kingsholm.

Irish had already lost three times to their hosts in domestic and European competitions this season, but two first-half tries from lock George Skivington helped the Exiles exact revenge.

Centre Steven Shingler added a penalty and conversion, while England international Freddie Burns booted four Gloucester penalties, yet Irish deserved a first Premiership away victory this season at the seventh attempt, and t was sealed by full-back Tom Homer's late penalty.

George Skivington scores the winning try for London Irish

Reaching for the line: George Skivington scores the winning try for London Irish

It took them five points above bottom club Sale Sharks, who tackle Saracens tomorrow, and sent them into a five-week league break with renewed optimism of avoiding the drop.

In contrast, a losing bonus point was scant consolation for Gloucester after a four-month unbeaten home record disappeared.

They were architects of their own downfall in many ways, taking wrong options, lacking the patience to break Irish down and losing composure when clear attacking opportunities presented themselves.

While the west country club remain firmly in the play-off picture, they could have few complaints about a defeat that underlined the Premiership's tight, intense nature this term.

Former England skipper Mike Tindall captained Gloucester in the absence of finger injury victim Jim Hamilton. Tom Savage filled Hamilton's second-row berth, while loosehead prop Dan Murphy took over from Nick Wood and Rob Cook returned at full-back.

Skivington was the difference between the two sides at Kingsholm

Scramble: Skivington was the difference between the two sides at Kingsholm

Irish included England centre Jonathan Joseph on the wing – Sailosi Tagicakibau and Shingler were rugby director Brian Smith's preferred midfield partnership – but England prop Alex Corbisiero failed a late fitness test and was replaced by Max Lahiff.

Burns booted Gloucester into a second-minute lead, yet Irish were not daunted by the size of their task, and after Shingler landed an equalising penalty they deservedly went ahead.

Gloucester were guilty of trying to run before they could walk, throwing out ambitious passes that were invariably spilled, with Burns guilty inside his own 22 by lobbing an ill-conceived ball to wing Charlie Sharples that Irish almost capitalised upon.

The visitors' opening try, though, arrived after 23 minutes when a spell of concerted pressure near Gloucester's line resulted in Skivington powering over. It was Irish's first touchdown for almost five hours of Premiership rugby.

Shingler missed the conversion, but Irish continued to grow in confidence and they capitalised on another Gloucester blunder after Burns had kicked his second penalty.

England's Ben Morgan batters the Irish line

Powerhouse: England's Ben Morgan batters the Irish line

Gloucester wing Shane Monahan was the guilty party, making a hash of trying to gather the ball just inside the home 22, and Irish scrum-half Pat Phibbs scrambled possession to Skivington, who touched down unopposed.

Shingler landed the conversion, and Gloucester could have few complaints about a 15-6 interval deficit as Irish threatened a first Premiership away win since they triumphed at Worcester last April.

The only blot on Irish's landscape was an injury to England squad hooker David Paice, who limped off on the stroke of half-time and was replaced by former Gloucester forward Scott Lawson.

Irish's Sailosi Tagicakibau evades a Gloucester tackle

Raw pace: Irish's Sailosi Tagicakibau evades a Gloucester tackle

Gloucester boss Nigel Davies made a triple substitution just 10 minutes into the second period, taking off Murphy, scrum-half Jimmy Cowan and flanker Akapusi Qera, but there was no immediate sign of his team showing an improvement.

Irish were content to keep their defensive shape and absorb Gloucester's heavy-duty runners, although Burns gave the home side hope when he completed his penalty hat-trick after 58 minutes and then slotted a fourth penalty three minutes later.

Shingler, having missed four of his six shots at goal, was replaced by Homer, and his 73rd-minute penalty from 40 metres meant Gloucester were sunk.

And they finished the game with 14 players when lock Will James was sin-binned by referee David Rose following a melee that spilled over the touchline in front of the main grandstand.

Tom Homer manages to get the ball away

Releasing: Tom Homer manages to get the ball away

Vintage era for Sheri: Monster prop is blossoming after move to wine country

Vintage era for Sheri: Monster prop is blossoming after move to wine country



19:40 GMT, 14 December 2012

There has been an unforeseen, comic complication for Andrew Sheridan since his transfer to Toulon in the summer, caused by the familiar abbreviation of his name.

'To have “Sheri” as my nickname is not ideal over here, because it means “darling”,' said Toulon's former England and Lions prop. 'OK, the spelling is different, but the pronunciation is similar, so I've had some funny looks when I've been called that since moving to France.'

Full-bloodied: the switch across the Channel to Toulon fits Sheridan

Full-bloodied: the switch across the Channel to Toulon fits Sheridan

Yet, if locals are bemused to hear the giant 33-year-old from Bromley – who has also been known as 'Big Ted' in his time – addressed in such a way, he insists they haven't come up with an alternative Gallic nickname so far.

But there is no doubt that the club's fervent fans have taken to him. Sheridan has been a colossal presence in the first half of his first season in the Top 14 league, to make himself truly a darling of the title-chasing team, the city and the region.

He certainly won't talk himself up, though. As he prepared for the second of back-to-back Heineken Cup fixtures against his former club Sale at Stade Felix Mayol tomorrow, the destructive loosehead was as understated as ever in his pronouncements. Hyperbole doesn't get a look-in. Sheridan is an engaging character but in an interview, he is far happier asking the questions than answering them.

First, he wants to know the 'inside story' about the Lions coaching announcement. Then, he veers off on a tangent to suggest, with typically dry humour, that hairstyle fashion is now catching up with his cropped, military look. He is amused at the notion of being a trend-setter.

Even when he is dragged back to more orthodox subject matter, there is a light-hearted undercurrent.

Galactico gang: Jonny Wilkinson is Sheridan's team-mate

Galactico gang: Jonny Wilkinson is Sheridan's team-mate

'I've settled in here and I'm really enjoying it,' he said. 'I'm slowly picking up the language – it's a gradual process but we have French lessons every week. I've been picking up the rugby vocab – “le maul”, “le ruck”, “le pick-and-go” – honestly, that's what they say!'

What has been striking about Sheridan's season to date (and let's hope this is not a curse) is his constant state of good health. After so many campaigns blighted by serious injury, he has been able to stay fit. It has been a welcome change.

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'I've played in all 17 matches so far,' he said. 'I've had the odd little niggle, but I'm getting old so that is inevitable!

'It's been great to get a run of games week after week, because I spent a lot of time in the previous three years on the operating table. That led to long periods of rehab, which were frustrating, so hopefully this period of playing consistently can continue. I can't say for sure why my luck has changed, but the climate helps. It's starting to get cold now though – I've had to cover up the pool and I haven't been able to go in the sea for a while!'

Sheridan has also relished being surrounded by an array of international-class talent at Toulon. The galacticos include Jonny Wilkinson and Carl Hayman, Matt Giteau, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Frederic Michalak. His preconceptions have been significantly altered in the case of one new team-mate with whom he had previously locked horns – a fearsome Springbok lock.

'Bakkies Botha is an incredibly tough rugby player and competitor, but he's also an amusing guy, it turns out,' he said. 'I must admit, I didn't expect him to be so funny – he's always coming out with little one-liners.'

Sheridan surely gives as good as he gets on that score, in his own softly spoken way. Asked how he has enjoyed the cultural benefits of being in France, the wine enthusiast – who hopes to find work in that trade when his rugby career is over – said he has already enjoyed trips to vineyards, but he mocked the suggestion that he might have tried his hand at surfing.

'There's no surfing here – it's the Med,' he said. 'The Med is dead! It's a flat sea and I'm no surfing expert, but the conditions here don't appear conducive! It's not for me anyway. I like paddling, going for walks along the beach and sitting in the sun.'

While Sheridan is at the forefront of Toulon's compelling double quest for the Top 14 title and Heineken Cup, he was an interested observer of England's autumn Tests. Having seen clips of the games against Fiji, Australia and South Africa, he watched the series finale against the All Blacks in full and was highly impressed.

'I thought it was a very complete performance by England,' he said. 'They played well in all areas, for the full 80 minutes. That was a very good win to have in their minds.

'There are bound to be tough matches in the Six Nations but whenever they are struggling, the players will be able to think back to beating the world champions, and that should lift them.'

Having been forced home from last year's World Cup by injury after the first pool match, Sheridan hasn't played for his country since.

He has not retired from Test rugby, but he does not expect to add to a tally of 42 caps, including two for the Lions. He was able to watch England beat the All Blacks without a trace of regret about the cross-Channel move that took him out of selection contention.

'I'm not an envious person and I don't get bitter,' he said. 'I'm a proud Englishman so I want England to do well. I knew the situation when I signed for Toulon. I know it is unlikely that they would pick people who are playing overseas. Even if I had stayed in England, Stuart Lancaster has looked to pick a younger side.

'My chances of playing for England again are remote. They've got a good batch of young props already performing well at that level. They would have to have quite a few injuries and find themselves really scraping the bottom of the barrel to get to me again! If I was asked, I wouldn't say no, but that is very unlikely.

'As for the Lions, I won't be involved in international rugby and there are good props all over Britain and Ireland, so that is highly unlikely, too.'

He says it all matter-of-factly. Sheridan is a realist, but in many ways, he is living the dream on the Cote d'Azur. 'I've got to go,' he said. 'It's time to open a bottle of wine!'

The new darling of Toulon has undoubtedly earned a glass or two.

Scotland 15 Tonga 21: Robinson left fighting for his job after abject display

Scotland 15 Tonga 21: Robinson left fighting for his job after abject display



19:26 GMT, 24 November 2012

Tonga triumphed in Aberdeen as Scotland slumped to another miserable loss which is sure to pile pressure on head coach Andy Robinson.

Tries from Lua Lokotui and Fetu'u Vainikolo and 11 points from the boot of Fangatapu Apikotoa earned Tonga a memorable win at Pittodrie.

No place to hide: Scotland coach Andy Robinson

No place to hide: Scotland coach Andy Robinson

Greig Laidlaw kicked five penalties for Scotland, who were blunt in attack, as Robinson's men fell to a third defeat of the EMC Test series following losses to New Zealand and South Africa.

It was an attritional affair on a narrow pitch which limited space and, once again, Scotland's passing lacked the accuracy required as the ball hit the floor with alarming regularity.

Scotland lacked ideas to overcome their physical opponents, who had three players sin-binned but were deserved winners as the hosts tasted defeat in Aberdeen for the first time.

A season which featured early World Cup elimination and a RBS 6 Nations wooden spoon was revived by the June wins in Australia, Fiji and Samoa before New Zealand and South Africa inflicted defeats which will see Scotland outside the top eight seeds for the 2015 World Cup draw.

Assuming he is retained, Robinson will next enter his fourth Six Nations, beginning with the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham, needing a remarkable turnaround to avoid another abject spring showing.

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

Due to a mixture of choice and circumstance, change was required for the final match of 2012, with six alterations from the XV which began the Springboks Test.

Making their first starts were scrum-half Henry Pyrgos and loosehead prop Kyle Traynor, who was released by Edinburgh in the summer but brought in due to decimated front-row resources.

Hooker Scott Lawson, lock Alastair Kellock, flanker Alasdair Strokosch and centre Max Evans also started.

Tonga lost to Italy and beat the United States this month and featured a host of European-based players eager to claim another northern hemisphere scalp following their World Cup win over France in the third Test between the sides.

Scotland were bidding for a morale-boosting win, just as they claimed in 1995 and 2001, but fell behind early on.

Apikotoa missed an early penalty from 45 metres before kicking a second from in front of the posts after Scotland killed the ball.

A Laidlaw penalty attempt careered back off the post before he kicked Scotland level after 11 minutes.

Crestfallen: Dejected Scotland players

Crestfallen: Dejected Scotland players

Tim Visser and Sean Lamont stretched Tonga down the left and a period of concerted pressure followed.

Scotland piled over the line, but it was impossible to rule whether the ball was grounded beneath a heap of bodies.

Scotland struggled to breach the Tonga defence until a gap presented itself to Laidlaw and he took it.

The fly-half ran 30 metres towards the Tonga line, with Visser on his left shoulder, but marked, and Strokosch on his right.

The flanker fumbled Laidlaw's pass as defenders recovered, the danger brought to an end.

Tonga continually infringed and referee Mathieu Raynal lost patience when Lokotui obstructed Richie Gray at a lineout and was sent to the sin-bin.

Prop Halani Aulika was fortunate not to join him after body-checking Matt Scott, with no attempt to tackle using his arms.

Tonga's short-handed scrum were penalised and Laidlaw's kick was successful to give Scotland a narrow half-time lead.

Scotland continued to struggle with ball in-hand, a Lamont carry deep into the 22 one of the few occasions the hosts breached enemy lines.

A penalty followed which Laidlaw kicked to extend the lead to six points, but Tonga kept up the pressure.

Apikotoa missed the chance to reduce the arrears, but Tonga's persistence paid off when they spread the ball wide and Lokotui made amends for his earlier indiscretion by burrowing over. Apikotoa converted to put Tonga 10-9 ahead.

Laidlaw kicked two more penalties to give the hosts a five-point lead entering the final quarter, but the advantage crumbled all too easily.

The ball was spread wide to Vainikolo, who simply stepped up the pace and ghosted down the left, evading substitute Nick De Luca, to score.

The conversion was missed by Apikotoa and Bath fly-half Tom Heathcote came on for his debut.

Nili Latu became the second Tongan sin-binned 11 minutes from time for leaping on top of a maul, but Heathcote's resulting penalty was short.

The task became tougher for Scotland when Apikotoa kicked his third penalty to leave the hosts requiring a converted try to win with six minutes left.

Sione Timani was sin-binned, temporarily reducing Tonga to 13 men.

Latu returned, with an attacking scrum for Scotland as the game ticked into added time.

Scotland nudged forward, but captain Kelly Brown lost control at the base of the set-piece and Tonga scrambled clear.

The last act of the game was Heathcote dropping a Rory Lawson pass as Scottish players stood crestfallen – and defeated – across the pitch.

England rugby injuries mount – David Paice called up

All hail Paice! Hooker's joy at call-up but England injuries mount



22:10 GMT, 29 October 2012

Joe Marler became the latest player to join England’s swelling casualty as the Harlequins prop’s hamstring injury forced head coach Stuart Lancaster to send for Matt Mullan as yet another squad reinforcement.

The flow of late arrivals into the FA’s national football centre in Burton-on-Trent — London Irish hooker David Paice and Quins lock George Robson joined on Sunday — continued with the call-up of the Worcester loosehead for training ahead of the first QBE International against Fiji at Twickenham on November 10.

Marler appeared to come through Quins’ Aviva Premiership victory over Irish on Sunday unscathed, but after reporting for national duty he was diagnosed with a ‘tight’ hamstring.

Call up: David Paice has been drafted into the England squad

Call up: David Paice has been drafted into the England squad

While the RFU insisted that summoning Mullan was just a precaution, Lancaster will, in theory, aim to finalise a matchday 23 for the Fiji game by Thursday, in order to release remaining squad players back to their clubs.

Therefore, Marler has another 48 hours to prove he is fit or his place is likely to be filled by the uncapped Saracen, Mako Vunipola.

This latest alarming development follows a flurry of setbacks over the weekend, with concerns largely focused on the state of two key Northampton forwards — Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes — who both suffered knee injuries on Saturday.

Amid suggestions that the damage sustained by Hartley is ‘significant’, the hooker and his fellow Saint were sent for scans on Monday evening. The RFU medical staff were also monitoring the state of centre Jonathan Joseph’s right ankle.

Hartley had been considered a contender for the captaincy, having led England to a draw in their last outing, against South Africa in Port Elizabeth in June, then following that up with a storming start to the new season. However, Chris Robshaw remained the clear favourite and is due to be confirmed on Tuesday in the role he filled with such distinction for the first seven games of this year.

Race against time: Joe Marler (left) is struggling with a hamstring injury

Race against time: Joe Marler (left) is struggling with a hamstring injury

Mullan was the third forward called up as a late replacement, after Robson and Paice checked into St George’s at short notice on Sunday night.

Paice revealed that he had to check with Joseph, his club colleague, to find out which part of the country he should drive to after being told about his sudden call-up by Exiles director of rugby Brian Smith.

‘I’ve just asked JJ where we’re going,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t sure. I haven’t spoken to anyone from England — just Brian and the media. I don’t know if people are winding me up! I’ll have to get one of the guys at Sunbury (London Irish’s training ground) to open up the changing room to get more boots out, then plug in the sat nav to find my way!’

Paice had learned last week that he had been overlooked for a place in the senior squad yet again, with Tom Youngs of Leicester promoted from the Saxons ahead of him. Yet the sense of dejection didn’t last long.

‘They called me on Tuesday night and said that I wasn’t in,’ he said. ‘I was disappointed but I’m very excited now. Brian told me in the changing rooms just after the game, and it’s a great honour. This news is a great surprise for me. I got engaged on Wednesday night, so it is a great engagement present!’

Sitting it out: Courtney Lawes (centre) and Dylan Hartley (right)

Sitting it out: Courtney Lawes (centre) and Dylan Hartley (right)

The hooker, 28, born in Darwin, Australia, made two replacement Test appearances on the tour of New Zealand in 2008, but then fell off England’s radar. He has worked hard for another shot and his chance follows the retirement of first Steve Thompson, then Lee Mears, and the injuries which sidelined Rob Webber and Joe Gray.

‘I think I’ve been playing well for the last couple of seasons and if I get my shot, I will take it with both hands this time,’ said Paice. ‘My game has come along in leaps and bounds, and I know I’m a much better player than I was in 2008.

‘The biggest thing I had to work on was my set-pieces and I think it is a major strength in my game now. I got my opportunity in 2008 through injuries and I guess it has happened again, but this time I’m going to take the chance.’

Exeter 42 Harlequins 28: Chiefs deny champions chance to return to top of table

Exeter 42 Harlequins 28: Chiefs deny champions chance to return to top of table



17:20 GMT, 6 October 2012

Exeter Chiefs celebrated their 50th Aviva Premiership match with a try-scoring bonus point victory at Sandy Park as the reigning champions Harlequins missed the opportunity to go back to the top of the table.

The home side freshened-up their starting line-up after least week's disappointing 30-8 defeat away to Leicester Tigers, as Australian lock Dean Mumm made his debut at the expense of skipper Tom Hayes.

Hooker Simon Alcott made his first Premiership start while flanker Ben White, fly-half Gareth Steenson and centre Phil Dollman were the other changes while No 8 Richard Baxter led the side.

The visitors had made two changes from the side that lost to Saracens last week, with Karl Dickson starting at scrum half while loosehead prop Mark Lambert made his first start of the season.

Over the line: Exeter's Jason Shoemark scores

Over the line: Exeter's Jason Shoemark scores

Steenson was quick to make an impression on the game with a good break and then the former Ireland Under 21 landed a 25 metre penalty but his opposite number, Nick Evans, saw his attempt to quickly level the scores drift wide of the uprights.

Quins maintained the pressure with Matt Hopper linking-up with his centre partner Jordan Turner-Hall but the England international was stopped short. Chiefs knocked-on but at the scrum the home side were penalised for Evans to get his side back on level terms.

Chiefs crossed for the first try of the game after a break from full back Luke Arscott which, after several phases of play, saw Dollman give a long pass to prop Brett Sturgess out on the touchline who ran round behind the posts.

Streenson added the extras and a penalty but Evans kept Quins in touch with his second penalty, from 48 metres as the Chiefs led 13-6 midway through the half. Evans then charged down Steenson's clearance kick to touchdown.

No way through Exeter's Matt Jess is held up by Joe Gray and Seb Stegmann

No way through Exeter's Matt Jess is held up by Joe Gray and Seb Stegmann

Evans failed with the touchline conversion but following Exeter pressure Steenson landed a second penalty, however England wing Ugo Monye went over for his fourth try of the season with Evans adding the conversion to give the visitors an 18-16 lead at the break.

Exeter made the perfect start to the second half with blindside flanker Ben White going over from close range, as referee Martin Fox continued play after a questionable tackle by Mike Brown on Hopper, and Steenson's conversion took the Chiefs back in front.

Midway through the half, wing Matt Jess saw his pass intercepted by replacement fly-half Rory Clegg who raced up to the Chiefs line, chased by Jess, before passing inside to scrum half Karl Dickson with Clegg converting.

Exeter, sensing a possible upset, responded with two tries in three minutes through inside centre Jason Shoemark to secure a try-scoring bonus point, with Steenson converting the second for a 10-point lead.

The home side were forced to defend their line as the game went in to the final 10 minutes with some strong tackles.

Quick ball: Exeter's Gareth Steenson releases after pressure from Chris Robshaw

Quick ball: Exeter's Gareth Steenson releases after pressure from Chris Robshaw

But they then gave away a penalty and Clegg landed his second kick to give his side a possible losing bonus point.

But the Chiefs sealed the game with two minutes remaining as replacement Sireli Naqelevuki broke clear for Exeter's fifth try and Steenson converted. Munn was yellow carded in the final minute but his side held on for the win.

Northampton 24 Wasps 6: James Wilson sends Saints top

Northampton 24 Wasps 6: Wilson sends Saints top after fifth straight home victory



21:06 GMT, 28 September 2012

New Zealander James Wilson scored his first two tries for Northampton as they made it five wins out of five at Franklin's Gardens to move to the top of the Aviva Premiership.

Wilson's double plus 14 points from the boot of Stephen Myler eased the Saints past a Wasps side who had dominated possession in the first half.

It could have been worse for Wasps as Tim Payne was lucky not to receive a red card after television match official Trevor Fisher was called upon by referee Dave Pearson. Replays showed the England loosehead dropping a knee on Vasily Artemyev in a ruck, but he was given just 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

No way through: Northampton's Luther Burrell (left) is tackled by Wasps' Nick Robinson

No way through: Northampton's Luther Burrell (left) is tackled by Wasps' Nick Robinson

Wasps, who have not won at Franklin's Gardens since November 2005, also saw wing James Bailey – a summer signing from Lyon – carried off on a stretcher with a broken leg 17 minutes into his first start for the club.

The two incidents hampered Wasps' efforts to break a well-drilled Northampton defence and, despite keeping the ball for large chunks of the opening 40 minutes, they turned around 14-6 down.

After five minutes of solid defending, Northampton scored with their first attack and it took just two passes. A poor kick landed in Wilson's lap on his 10m line. He passed to Ken Pisi, who burst through the Wasps line and then passed back to Wilson for the full-back to run over unopposed from 20 metres. Myler missed the conversion and a penalty, but at the third attempt made it 8-0 after 12 minutes.

Nicky Robinson got Wasps on the scoreboard with a penalty after a burst from Christian Wade had got the visitors into Northampton's 22. But Wasps were dealt a blow when Bailey was carried off on a stretcher.

It did not put them off their stride as they continued to dominate possession and a 15m lineout drive gave Robinson another three points.

Myler replied with three of his own, though, and – after Northampton lock Samoa Manoa showed his side-stepping abilities to nip past a couple of Wasps tacklers – the fly-half made it 14-6.

Putting the boot in: Stephen Myler of Northampton kicks a penalty at Franklin's Gardens

Putting the boot in: Stephen Myler of Northampton kicks a penalty at Franklin's Gardens

On the stroke of half-time Payne was
sent to the sin-bin after the TMO was called on. Replays showed Payne
dropping his knee on Artemyev and the home crowd were furious the
England loosehead did not receive a red card.

Wasps a man down Northampton went for the kill but twice Artemyev, now
with his head bandaged, could not gather offloads inches from the
try-line and Soane Tonga'uiha could not quite reach the line after
charging out of a ruck five metres from the line.

The visitors did well to survive the 10 minutes, although Payne's return did not alter the course of the second half. It was all Northampton.

Northampton lock Christian Day became the second player to be carried off on a stretcher on 55 minutes with his right lower leg strapped up, but it did not stop the hosts' momentum.

And a minute later Wilson squirmed over for his second despite being seemingly stopped on the line by James Haskell and Andrea Masi after a powerful run and offload from Saints centre Luther Burrell.
Worryingly for England and Northampton, Courtney Lawes then limped off and Dylan Hartley came off with some sort of blow to the head.

But Northampton were able to bring Brian Mujati off the bench and the South African tore Wasps' scrum to pieces, winning penalty after penalty to give the home side control as they maintained their impressive start to the season.

Tom Croft, Ben Youngs and Alex Corbisiero doubts for Twickenham series

Lancaster dealt triple injury blow as Croft, Youngs and Corbisiero could all be out for autumn Test series



00:05 GMT, 6 September 2012

England head coach Stuart Lancaster is facing the prospect of being without Tom Croft, Ben Youngs and Alex Corbisiero for the daunting autumn Test series at Twickenham.

The trio of leading players could struggle to regain full fitness by mid-November after injuries which have prevented them starting the season.

England take on Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on successive Saturdays from November 10 to December 1.

Worry: Tom Croft could miss a trying Test series at Twickenham

Worry: Tom Croft could miss a trying Test series at Twickenham

Croft and Youngs, the Leicester flanker and scrum-half, have neck and knee injuries and their director of rugby Richard Cockerill said on Wednesday: 'They are doing well but it will be two months.'

The same verdict has been given by London Irish's director of rugby Brian Smith on Corbisiero, the country's premier loosehead prop, who needed surgery on a knee injury sustained on England's summer tour of South Africa.

Youngs was also injured on that trip when he hurt his shoulder in the second Test. Lancaster had hoped the 22-year-old would be fit by mid-October but it seems he will be out for longer.

Croft has not played since last April when he hurt his neck during the Aviva Premiership game against Harlequins at The Stoop.

However, the outlook for Northampton lock Courtney Lawes is thought to be more positive.

Lawes, 23, missed most of last season's Six Nations and England's summer tour with a shin injury, then damaged an elbow in pre-season training and needed surgery.

Him too: Alex Corbisiero (centre, white shirt) could also miss the matches

Him too: Alex Corbisiero (centre, white shirt) could also miss the matches

'He's a few weeks away yet,' said Northampton's director of rugby, Jim Mallinder.

Meanwhile, with the Lions tour of Australia still nine months away, the verbal sparring has begun after Warren Gatland lit the fuse on Tuesday.

Speaking at his unveiling as head coach, the Kiwi said the Lions should be prepared for a dirty tricks campaign from the host nation, orchestrated by John O'Neill – the notorious ARU chief executive.

The Wales coach suggested O'Neill has exerted a sly influence over the officiating of Australia matches, saying: 'They are masters at it and possibly the best one was John O'Neill, as a master of influence in certain things.

'I don't see any better example than how the (World Cup) quarter-final between South Africa and Austral ia last year was influenced. It was a masterstroke.

Headache: Head coach Stuart Lancaster (centre) could be without three vital players

Headache: Head coach Stuart Lancaster (centre) could be without three vital players

'I'm not 100 per cent sure but I think that, after Ireland beat Australia in that pool game, certain complaints were made about the referee, subtly and tactfully, and I think that had an impact on the quarter-final (refereed by the same official from New Zealand, Bryce Lawrence).

'We've got to be aware about what sort of things are going to be done on and off the field.'

In response yesterday, O'Neill played down any underhand activity but said the ARU made 'enquiries about interpretations at the breakdown' following the defeat by Ireland.

The up-shot was a performance by Lawrence in the quarter-finals which led to South African fury about the leeway given to Australia flanker David Pocock at rucks.

And him! Ben Youngs is also a doubt for the match

And him! Ben Youngs is also a doubt for the match

'It's quite flattering for Warren to give us credit for influencing referees but the reality is we all know referees are beyond reproach,' said O'Neill.

Gatland also cited an issue from the 2001 Lions tour of Australia, when the ARU spent AU$100,000 (about 64,000) on merchandise which was handed out free to home fans, while supporters of the visitors were crammed into distant corners of the bigger stadiums.

He warned the 2013 tourists would be ready for 'an orchestrated campaign in Australia to build them up and potentially make things difficult for us'.

O'Neill added: 'The forthcoming Lions tour wouldn't be the same without a few theatrical distractions and the odd ambush.'

England prop Alex Corbisiero ruled out for third South Africa Test with knee injury

Marler drafted in for final Test after Corbisiero is struck down by knee injury



09:16 GMT, 22 June 2012

England have been forced into a change for this weekend's third Test against South Africa after prop Alex Corbisiero suffered a recurrence of a knee injury.

Corbisiero had been expected to return to the starting line-up after missing the first Test and coming off the bench in the second.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has announced the London Irish forward will be replaced in the side for the final game against the Springboks by Harlequins' Joe Marler.

Ruled out: Alex Corbisiero has suffered a recurrence of a knee injury

Ruled out: Alex Corbisiero has suffered a recurrence of a knee injury


A Goode (Saracens); C Ashton (Northampton), J Joseph (London Irish), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton); T Flood (Leicester), D Care (Harlequins); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton, capt), D Cole (Leicester), T Palmer (Stade Francais), G Parling (Leicester), T Johnson (Exeter), J Haskell (Otago Highlanders), T Waldrom (Leicester).

Replacements: L Mears (Bath), , M Botha (Saracens), P Dowson (Northampton), L Dickson (Northampton), O Farrell (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens).

Corbisiero, 23, established himself as first-choice loosehead during this year's RBS 6 Nations Championship but then missed the end of the domestic season after a biceps operation.

He was fit enough to join the England squad for the South Africa tour but jarred his knee in training soon after arrival in the country.

His place for the first Test in Durban went to Marler and the Quins forward retained the starting spot in Johannesburg last week.

Incoming: Joe Marler will start in Port Elizabeth for England

Incoming: Joe Marler will start in Port Elizabeth for England

Corbisiero was set to return in Port Elizabeth as Lancaster initially named a team featuring six changes but 21-year-old Marler, who was perhaps unlucky to be dropped, will now be retained.

England are looking to claim a consolation victory at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium after defeats in the first two matches.

Lancaster said: 'Alex trained well early in the week having played well at the weekend but the knee reacted over the last 24 hours.

'It is a shame for Alex as he was desperate to take part but it's the right thing to put in Joe and we are sure he can build on his performances in the first two Tests.'

Joe Marler and Tom Johnson to make England debuts

Lancaster backs debutant duo Marler and Johnson to shine in Durban



09:19 GMT, 7 June 2012

England head coach Stuart Lancaster has insisted he had no hesitation in handing debuts to Joe Marler and Tom Johnson in Saturday's first Test against South Africa at Kings Park, Durban.

Lancaster announced his squad for the first match of the three-Test series on Thursday morning, confirming, as Sportsmail revealed on Wednesday evening, that the pair would start alongside Mike Brown, recalled at full-back.

Setting the style: Marler with his Mohican haircut

Setting the style: Marler with his Mohican haircut

Hair apparent: Joe Marler's strong game in the loose and improving scrummaging has earned him a Test debut

Hair apparent: Joe Marler's strong game in the loose and improving scrummaging has earned him a Test debut

England team to face South Africa in the first Test at Kings Park, Durban, on Saturday, June 9:

M Brown (Harlequins); C Ashton (Northampton), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Barritt (Saracens), B Foden (Northampton); O Farrell (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), M Botha (Saracens), G Parling (Leicester), T Johnson (Exeter), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Scarlets).

Replacements: L Mears (Bath), P Doran Jones (Northampton), T Palmer (Stade Francais), P Dowson (Northampton), L Dickson (Northampton), T Flood (Leicester), J Joseph (London Irish).

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Harlequins prop Marler, 21, gets his
chance at loosehead with Alex Corbisiero struggling with a knee injury,
while Exeter flanker Johnson, 29, starts at blindside with both Tom
Croft and Tom Wood ruled out of the tour and James Haskell having just
arrived from a spell with New Zealanders Otago Highlanders.

Lancaster was full of praise for the
pair. 'Tom and Joe have had great seasons at their clubs and have worked
really hard to get this chance, both are in great form and have really
impressed in training,' he said.

Lancaster also explained his
decision to move Ben Foden from full-back to wing to cover for David
Strettle's injury and to accomodate Marler's fellow Quin Brown.

'Equally, Mike Brown has been outstanding for Harlequins,' added Lancaster.

'/06/07/article-0-136A4264000005DC-448_634x397.jpg” width=”634″ height=”397″ alt=”Late bloomer: Tom Johnson makes his debut aged 29″ class=”blkBorder” />

Late bloomer: Tom Johnson makes his debut aged 29

There is a fourth change
to the side that beat Ireland in England's final Six Nations game with
Ben Youngs returning at scrum-half in place of Lee Dickson, who drops to
the bench.

Lancaster explained that Youngs' selection was based on
form, while he also revealed that fellow scrum-half Danny Care will play
in the midweek tour match against SA Barbarians South

'Selection is competitive in lots of positions, particularly at scrum-half,' Lancaster said.

Time on the ball: Marler preparing for the first Test with South Africa

Time on the ball: Marler preparing for the first Test with South Africa

Elevation: Mike Brown (centre) will start as full back

Elevation: Mike Brown (centre) will start as full back

'We are really pleased with Ben's form and he knows our systems well.

if he gets his chance from the bench, I am sure will make an impact and
Danny will get his opportunity to press his case, as will the others,
in the first midweek game on Wednesday.

'We have made no secret of
how tough this series will be but it is an opportunity we are looking
forward to and I am confident that we can perform.'

Putting the time in: Chris Robshaw prepares for opening game against South Africa

Putting the time in: Chris Robshaw prepares for opening game against South Africa

Hair-raising: Marler scrummages during England training in Durban

Hair-raising: Marler scrummages during England training in Durban

Owen Farrell starts alongside Youngs at fly-half with Toby Flood preferred to Charlie Hodgson among the replacements.

uncapped player, London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph, is also named
among the replacements ahead of the likes of Christian Wade and Ugo
Monye after an impressive two-try performance agains the Barbarians at
Twickenham last month.

Exclusive: England will turn to Marler, the first of the Mohicans, to face South Africa

Exclusive: England will turn to Marler, the first of the Mohicans, to face South Africa



21:16 GMT, 6 June 2012

Joe Marler went cage-diving at the local aquarium but on Saturday the Harlequins prop will be pitched into a drier but more dangerous Shark Tank as he makes his Test debut for England.

The Kings Park stadium in this city by the Indian Ocean has acquired that nickname as the home of the Natal Sharks Super 15 side. That is the forbidding arena where Marler must prove that for all his outlandish Mohican hair-style, he is a young prop of sufficient substance to stand up to the might of South Africa’s formidable pack.

There have been encouraging signs of progress in his scrummaging to complement ample skill in the loose, but that set-piece improvement must be in evidence against opponents who prioritise that staple of the game.

Hair apparent: Joe Marler's strong game in the loose and improving scrummaging has earned him a Test debut

Hair apparent: Joe Marler's strong game in the loose and improving scrummaging has earned him a Test debut

Head coach Stuart Lancaster will name the rookie loosehead in place of Alex Corbisiero, who is still recovering from a biceps operation, in a reshuffled side featuring another Test newcomer, Exeter flanker Tom Johnson.

How they line up

He will start at blindside on the back of a superb display against the Barbarians at the end of last month and in the enforced absence of established No 6s Tom Croft and Tom Wood. Johnson has been chosen ahead of James Haskell, who has considerable experience but is still settling in after his arrival from New Zealand, where he has been playing for Otago Highlanders.

Lancaster and his assistants, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt, have settled on a new-look back-three in light of David Strettle’s inability to train due to a lingering injury.

With the Saracens wing out of the equation for now, Ben Foden has been shifted out wide to make room for Mike Brown of Harlequins to cap a sensational season at club level by reclaiming the England No 15 shirt.

Elevation: Mike Brown (centre) will start as full back

Elevation: Mike Brown (centre) will start as full back

The 26-year-old has been recalled to the starting XV on the strength of his consistently accomplished form during Quins’ record-breaking, title-winning campaign in the Aviva Premiership, but also because he offers a left-footed kicking option and is another player at ease under the high ball.

In all, there are four changes to the XV who lined up for the Six Nations finale against Ireland at Twickenham which ended in a rousing 30-9 victory for the hosts.

Ben Youngs will be reinstated at scrum-half, ahead of Lee Dickson, with the Northampton No 9 to be included among the replacements. Despite his electric form for Quins in the latter part of the season, Danny Care is being made to show patience and persistence in his quest to win back his place.

Although Youngs has played so much of his best international rugby when in tandem with his Leicester half-back partner Toby Flood, the No 10 who is England’s most experienced player will have to bide his time as Owen Farrell is once again picked at fly-half.

Reinstated: Ben Youngs will be at scrum-half

Reinstated: Ben Youngs will be at scrum-half

After an off-key display against the Barbarians, the coaches will be closely scrutinising his contribution in open play, seeking signs of greater assurance and authority. What they will expect is that the young Saracen can punish any Springbok indiscretions with reliable goal-kicking.

Outside Farrell will be the familiar and reassuring figure of Brad Barritt, who will relish a return to his home city and the stadium where he played many times for the Sharks.

He will provide the defensive ballast while Manu Tuilagi’s primary objective at outside centre will be to generate attacking momentum with his strong running in midfield.

Up front, Ben Morgan has recovered from a hamstring injury to retain his place at No 8 alongside Johnson and captain Chris Robshaw. Mouritz Botha is the other South Africa-born player in England’s starting ranks for this game, while Geoff Parling will be charged with orchestrating the destruction of the Boks’ previously-renowned lineout.

Sink or swim Geoff Parling will play in the first Test

Sink or swim Geoff Parling will play in the first Test

Completing the pack are the established pair of Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole at hooker and tighthead prop.

While there are several Test rookies in this England side for such a daunting assignment, South Africa have a callow look too, with three debutant forwards — locks Juandre Kruger and Eben Etzebeth, and flanker Marcell Coetzee.

Yet, Etzebeth is particularly highly regarded as an abrasive ‘enforcer’ in the Bakkies Botha mould and Heyneke Meyer, the Boks coach, said that the 20-year-old from Cape Town could be even better than the notorious hard man whose shoes he is trying to fill.