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January 19, 2006 2:00 am
After a publicity blitz whose vigour and intensity suggested he was running for public office rather than recall to a rugby team, Lawrence Dallaglio has won the vote of his one-man electorate, England head coach Andy Robinson, and a place in the 36-man squad for the RBS6 Nations championship, writes Huw Richards .
The 73-times capped Dallaglio returns after his 18-month sabbatical in an essentially conservative selection that points to England countering the fluid, high-tempo game of champions Wales in the opening match at Twickenham on February 4 by attempting to overpower them physically. Whether he will win starting selection is another matter.
Robinson also confirmed that Martin Corry, who has taken over with great success from Dallaglio as both number eight and captain, will lead England into the tournament and it is hard to see how both can be accommodated without unbalancing the back row.
There is no place for either Bristol scrum-half Shaun Perry or Wasps flanker Tom Rees, who have to settle for places in an "A" squad including two British and Irish Lions - hooker Andy Titterell and centre Ollie Smith. Rees lost out to the current form and extra power of Titterell's Sale team-mate Magnus Lund, 22, the one uncapped player in the squad.
Yet another injury sidelines unlucky prop Phil Vickery along with clubmate Andy Hazell, but there is better news for another Gloucester man, lock Alex Brown, who is recalled after missing the autumn inter-nationals through injury. He will, however, struggle to displace the Bath duo of Danny Grewcock and Steve Borthwick.
Robinson has left himself a wide range of options for the contentious centre positions - Charlie Hodgson is a certainty at outside-half - including possible club pairings from Wasps (Stuart Abbott and Josh Lewsey) or Gloucester (James Simpson-Daniel and Mike Tindall).
England squad: Lewsey, Van Gisbergen, Cohen, Cueto, Voyce, Varndell, Simpson-Daniel, Tindall, Noon, Abbott, Barkley, Goode, Hodgson, Dawson, Richards, Ellis, Corry (Capt), Dallaglio, Worsley, Sanderson, Moody, Forrester, Lund, Jones, Borthwick, Grewcock, L Deacon, Brown, Shaw, Freshwater, White, Stevens, Sheridan, Mears, Thompson, Chuter.
Meanwhile, a High Court showdown between the Rugby Football Union and Guinness Premiership clubs appears increasingly unlikely. The RFU announced a withdrawal of parts of a legal counter-claim as a result of Premier Rugby accepting that it is legally bound by the June 2004 elite player squad agreement.
A High Court date had been set for late February, after the issue arose when Twickenham in October unilaterally ended the long-form agreement ithad with Premiership clubs governing the management of elite players.
Premier Rugby claim the RFU withheld £120,000 from three clubs last September. The payments were not made because the RFU said the clubs had not adequately rested players following the Lions tour of New Zealand last summer. The RFU offered to pay half the sum with the other half going to charity, an offer rejected by Premier Rugby, which now believes an end is in sight.
''The RFU is pleased to confirm that, in documents recently submitted to the Court, Premier Rugby Ltd (PRL) has now accepted that it is legally bound by the Elite Player Squad agreement of June 2004," the RFU said in a statement.
''PRL's failure to confirm this last year triggered the RFU's counter-claim in the current litigation. As a result of this confirmation, the RFU has now been able to withdraw those elements of its counter-claim relating to this matter."
RFU chairman Martyn Thomas added: "We hope that this opens the door to enable settlement of the remaining parts of the litigation."
*The leading lights of tennis shone brightly at the Australian Open on a day when shocks were at a premium. Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin-Hardenne recorded impressive straight set wins in the second round.
Williams, the defending champion, had appeared to be struggling for fitness and form as she stumbled to a three-set victory over Li Na in the opening round, but her 49-minute 6-3 6-1 destructionof the unseeded Camille Pin dispelled some concerns. Williams's main rivals in the top half of the draw all made it through safely, while the bottom half of the men's draw was opened up with the loss of three seeds. Robby Ginepri, Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych all made early exits, leaving Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian as the favourites to meet in next week's semi-finals.
*The Football Association is to "reflect" on its meeting with Mike Newell after the Luton manager was summoned to explain his claim that a "bung" culture still existed in the game.
Newell said last week that he had been offered cash by agents and club officials as an incentive to buy and sell players. He said he would be stunned if former Arsenal manager George Graham was the only one to have accepted a bung in the past 11 years.
The FA called the meeting at its London headquarters with Newell to discuss the comments but a statement released after it gave little indication of what was said. It said: ''Chief executive Brian Barwick met with Newell but did not take part in the formal part of the meeting.
''The FA will now reflect on the private conversation with Newell. No further comment can be made at this time."
Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion said they had ended their interest in signing Middlesbrough defender Ugo Ehiogu. The club and player failed to agree personal terms. Midfielder Eirik Bakke will return to Leeds after having his loan spell at Aston Villa cut short. Striker Bobby Zamora, 25, has signed a new contract that will keep him at West Ham until 2010.
*England's cricketers may face India as often as Australia in the future after agreeing in principle to play the Asian country home and away every four years.
Michael Vaughan's team, who travel to India next month for a nine-week tour, are scheduled to take on the Indians on home soil in 2007, five years after the last visit. However, the England and Wales Cricket Board is willing to sign up to more regular meetings should the International Cricket Council's future tours programme - which ensures each full member country plays the other twice in a certain period - be altered from a five-year to a six-year cycle. A decision on that is expected at the ICC's chief executives' meeting next month.
Derbyshire have named all-rounder Graeme Welch, 33, as their new captain in succession to Luke Sutton.
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