Morgan suffers England blow
January 12, 2009
Morgan has been widely tipped for a promotion to the England senior ranks © Getty Images
Gloucester fullback Olly Morgan's hopes of being named in England's Six Nations squad have been dealt a huge blow with confirmation he fractured a finger in his side's Guinness Premiership defeat to Newcastle on Sunday.
Coach Dean Ryan revealed Morgan's injury was "very serious" following his title-chasing side's shock 10-7 defeat to strugglers Newcastle at Kingston Park. As a result the in-form Morgan, tipped fo rmuch of the season for further England honours, is unlikely to be named in team manager Martin Johnson's revised elite squads on Wednesday.
In another blow to the West Country side, who could have reclaimed the Premiership top spot with victory over the Falcons, centre Mike Tindall limped off with a dead leg Morgan's injury capped a bad day for the visitors who, in a addition to missing the chance to claim leadership of the Guinness Premiership, also had Mike Tindall forced off with a dead leg to cast some doubt over his fitness for England.
"It is obviously very serious for Olly (Morgan). I think there is some tendon damage, but I don't know how long he will be out for," Ryan said.
A Tom May penalty 10 minutes from time earned victory for the struggling Falcons, although Gloucester did have their chance to equalise. With five minutes remaining the visitors passed up a penalty to level the scores, a decision Ryan said he would not criticise on a blustery day at Kingston Park.
"I will support decisions," he said. "Those decisions are not right or wrong. We did so we have to live with it. It was always going to be a game that with 60mph winds out there was going to be very difficult. When a wind is that dominant you are going to sit on a 7-10. It was decided on a penalty to Newcastle and we have to take that on the chin and move on."
The Falcons win opened up a seven-point lead between them and last-placed Bristol after they lost 37-13 at Saracens. The relegation rivals meet next month at the Memorial Stadium and Bristol head coach Richard Hill is in no doubt they will need to triumph in that game if they are to avoid the drop. He said: "It was a very good win for Newcastle and we've got to stew on that for four weeks and get our act together. We have to beat Newcastle. There was pressure on us to win that one anyway but now we just have to win."
Meanwhile, Saracens boss Eddie Jones has urged England to draft New Zealand-born fly-half Glen Jackson into their ranks for the forthcoming Six Nations after another impressive display. Jackson, 33, is England-qualified and yesterday became the first player to pass 150 points in this Guinness Premiership season, taking his tally to 158 with a 15-point haul.
"His goalkicking was good and his out-of-hand kicking is just wonderful. England should really consider having him in the squad," Jones said. "If they are going to have (Danny) Cipriani and (Toby) Flood as their major stand-offs maybe they should have someone like Jackson, who understands the game exceedingly well, in the squad to teach these younger guys how to play because I think they need a mentor."
League leaders London Irish suffered at the hands of Sale Sharks in the opening game of the weekend. Winger Mark Cueto offered England a timely reminder to what he is capable of with an eye-catching display in a 14-8 victory at Edgeley Park with fly-half Charlie Hodgson also pushing his claims for an international recall.
Sale boss Saint-Andre backed backed Cueto for an international recall, saying, "Johnno was sat next to me so you'll have to ask him but Cueto is back to his best and he scored a try again. He has struggled with injuries for 18 months but in the past three months he's been free from injury and he's looked sharp, quick and strong.
"It's the best he's been in a long time - even during the World Cup he struggled with injury - but he's had a good pre-season and you can see in training how confident he is right now. He'll beat people one on one and when you're on the wing, you want this. It was a big win, it keeps us in position to finish in the top four and it sets up nicely for Munster away in the Heineken Cup next week."
On Saturday, speedster Paul Diggin crossed twice as Northampton recorded a memorable 17-13 win over east midlands rivals Leicester.
Saints boss Jim Mallinder praised his two-try winger, saying: "He's only small but he's got a big heart. We've got a bit of competition there and he's keeping some key personnel out of the team. He's a local Northampton lad who went to the boys' school down the road and what he's doing is fantastic."
The weather took its toll on the rest of the weekend's fixtures with both Harlequins' clash with Worcester and Bath's match-up with London Wasps being postponed due to the cold snap.
Bath boss Steve Meehan struggled to contain his anger at the decision to call their game off barely 90 minutes before kick-off. He said: "They (Wasps) were down here since nine o'clock this morning telling anyone they could possibly find that it wasn't good to go.
"I would have liked for them (officials) to wait a little bit longer before making the decision, that's the most annoying aspect. The referee calls it off, he has the final say, and he deemed there were a couple of areas he felt weren't safe. I would expect the game to be rescheduled for January 31. It is a reserve weekend, and is there for games that have been called off. The disadvantage comes to the supporters, not being able to see some of these England internationals running around on that weekend. It's a great shame."
Wasps head coach Shaun Edwards patrolled the pitch, which had been under a blanket of frost covers all week, from mid-morning. And he insisted player safety was uppermost in his mind. Edwards said: "I've been saying to everybody that nobody in the world loves rugby as much as me.But the pitch was definitely not playable. The safety of my players has got to be the biggest consideration. I am sorry for all the loyal fans who turned up, but I hope they understand where I am coming from."