Andrew may face Davies
ROB ANDREW was named last night as a replacement for England's final Five Nations match against Wales at Cardiff on Saturday when the outside half Paul Grayson failed a fitness test. Mike Catt, moves into the starting line up.
Andrew, called up yesterday morning by the England coach Jack Rowell, stands the chance of a remarkable head to head with his fellow 34 year old Jonathan Davies. They played each other four times before Davies switched to rugby league. Kevin Bowring, the Wales coach, names his side today.
If Andrew gets on the field, he would win his 71st cap. He joined Rowell's expanded match squad for training at Bisham Abbey yesterday saying: "Basically I've been asked to cover a one off situation. Paul is doubtful and Mike may have to step in. I will assist, if necessary, for this game only.
"It did surprise me when I got the call from Jack, but it's not the start of a comeback trail. Obviously goalkicking is an issue tore England and I am happy to help out. A strange set of circumstances has created the situation in which could be on the same pitch as Jonathan Davies."
Andrew last played for England in the 1995 World Cup semi final defeat by New Zealand. Since then he has left Wasps and become director of rugby at Newcastle, announcing at the time his retirement from international rugby. However, his world class goal kicking skills will give England extra insurance if Catt is injured or has a bad day with the boot.
One of the ironies of England's goalkicking dilemma is that Andrew's excellent form this season has prevented Tim Stimpson, Newcastle's England full back, from developing his place kicking skills in league matches.
Bath, too, prefer Jonathan Callard to Catt as their goal kicker, yet Catt will have to kick the goals as he returns to the side after a three match absence during which Grayson has kicked, superbly.
"Place kicking is an issue," admitted Rowell, who drafted Callard into the squad before securing Andrew's agreement to help out. Earlier in the day the England coach said: "Rob will be on the bench if needed because he is experienced at this level as well as being a number 10 and a place kicker. Alex King of Wasps is not a place kicker, but I think what has happened this week will have a positive effect on King."
But Nigel Melville, Wasps' director of rugby and a former England scrum half, begged to differ. "I think it's an enormous step back," he said. "I have nothing against Rob, but I bet he is as surprised as me. He has been put on the bench just to kick goals that's the state of English rugby.
"Everyone is complaining about not having an English number 10 who can play rugby. We are getting paranoid about goal kickers, yet the French took England apart last week without a recognised goal kicker. We shouldn't get too hung up on goal kickers."
Notwithstanding Melville's misgivings, Rowell had to cover all possible contingencies by enlisting the best available goal kicker for what may well be a close match, with England aiming for a Triple Crown. Neither of England A's young outside halves, King and Gloucester's Mark Mapletoft, will be encouraged by his exclusion from the match squad of 21, though privately both might agree that the cauldron of the Arms Park might not be the best place to make an England debut.
Phil de Glanville, the England captain, believes the pressure to bring specialist kickers on to the bench would be eased if players in positions other than outside half and full back were trained to kick goals.
"Centres and second row forwards should also learn how to do it," he said, mindful of the fact that Christophe La Maison (the French centre) and John Eales (Australia's second row) are excellent kickers. For the moment, though, the ball is at Andrew's practised foot.
The fascinating possibility of a battle of wits between Andrew and Davies, the 34 year old former Rugby League international, is expected to be confirmed when Bowring announces his team today.
Colin Charvis last night dropped out of the Wales side with a groin infection. The Swansea flanker is having tests to discover the cause of the problem.
His place is likely to be filled by the Ebbw Vale captain Kingsley Jones, whose last international appearance was against Australia three months ago. Charvis is also doubtful for the World Sevens in Hong Kong which begin next week.
Davies has played a full part in Wales' training sessions this week, one of the few players to have done so. He has been deployed at outside half with Neil Jenkins remaining at full back.
"All I can do is hope," said Davies, who this week announced that his Wales career would end after the match. "It will be an emotional day it is the last international before the National Stadium is rebuilt and Will Carling could also, be playing his last international.
Wales had a closed training session yesterday and they will have fitness reports on four players today the wing Ieuan Evans, the centre Scott Gibbs and the props Christian Loader and David Young. Outside half Arwel Thomas and the second row Mark Rowley have already been ruled nut through injury.