Dawson in line for captaincy
January 7, 2000
Matt Dawson will captain England in next month's Six Nations Championship opener against Ireland if his fellow British Lion Martin Johnson fails to recover from injury.
And in alerting Northampton scrum-half Dawson, England coach Clive Woodward tonight dismissed Lawrence Dallaglio's prospects of regaining the job on a temporary basis as Johnson continues to fight an Achilles problem.
Lions skipper and England World Cup captain Johnson has not played since December 12 when Leicester lost at Glasgow in the Heineken Cup.
He could still require surgery to rectify a wear-and-tear injury which Leicester manager Dean Richards recently revealed first surfaced seven months ago.
Dallaglio resigned the England leadership last May following newspaper drugs allegations. He was subsequently fined £15,000 for bringing rugby into disrepute, and ordered to pay £10,000 costs by a three-man tribunal under High Court judge Sir Oliver Popplewell's chairmanship.
But Woodward, who today announced his first training squad since England's worst World Cup performance for 12 years, moved quickly to scotch speculation that Dallaglio might be reappointed in a caretaker role.
"As far as the captaincy is concerned, Martin Johnson remains my number one choice and he is confident that he will be fit for the start of the championship," Woodward said.
"However, if Martin is not fit, then Matt Dawson will captain the team, on merit, during the Six Nations.
"There has been speculation concerning the possibility of Lawrence Dallaglio resuming the role on a temporary basis should Martin remain injured, but I want Lawrence to continue to play and enjoy his rugby without any additional responsibilities."
Dawson is no stranger to the role, having captained England admirably amid overwhelming odds during Test match defeats by New Zealand (twice) and South Africa on England's ill-conceived 1998 southern hemisphere tour.
And while Johnson watches from the touchline, Dawson will be among a 35 man group reporting for training when England assemble at their new Bagshot base on Sunday night.
The squad contains 10 uncapped players, but does not include Johnson, eight other injured personnel and no Bath representatives because of the West Country club's rearranged Heineken Cup match against Swansea next Tuesday.
Leicester hooker Richard Cockerill and Bath prop Victor Ubogu are the only World Cup players omitted for reasons other than injury or unavailability.
Outspoken Cockerill recently criticised Woodward in a controversial chapter of his autobiography "In Your Face".
Cockerill attacked Woodward for informing players of selection or otherwise via e-mail.
"My main criticism of Woody concerns some of his man-management," Cockerill
Woodward though, insists that Cockerill's demotion behind rival hookers Phil Greening, Neil McCarthy and young Northampton prospect Steve Walter, is a purely merit-based decision.
"Richard Cockerill has not been included in the squad, and this decision is based purely on merit. However, I will continue to monitor his form."
Cockerill, possibly prophetically, concluded his book by stating: "Now the
"It's a dilemma whether to carry on and risk under-performing because I'm tired, or take a voluntary break and forfeit an international place.
"Either way, it could well be the end of the international road for yours truly, in which case, the odyssey is over."
The 10 newcomers include some of English rugby's brightest young hopes, featuring talent like teenage Saracens prop David Flatman, Northampton wing Ben Cohen and Gloucester centre Joe Ewens.
Wasps' impressive midfield partners Mark Denney and Fraser Waters are called up, together with Bristol full back Lee Best, Saracens scrum-half Nick Walshe and prop Julian White, plus Wasps' experienced number eight Peter Scrivener.
Walter, understudy to Argentinian star Federico Mendez at Franklin's Gardens and a former England basketball trialist, underlined the new boys' determination to impress Woodward.
"I am delighted to be in the squad. I played my first league match for Northampton last year, so everything has happened really quickly," he said.
"I just want to concentrate on playing for Northampton, knowing that I cannot allow my performance level to sag, given the quality of competition around."
White, a Devon farmer who went sheep shearing in New Zealand and ended up playing Super 12 rugby for Canterbury Crusaders, has immediately justified his switch to the Allied Dunbar Premiership from Welsh club Bridgend.
While in New Zealand, he almost lost his life, being involved in a head-on car crash near Napier that left him trapped while flames began engulfing his vehicle.
He escaped in the nick of time though, suffering a broken left leg that mean him using crutches for two months.
Woodward will announce the final 26-man Six Nations squad after a second session on January 18 England tackle Ireland at Twickenham 18 days later but maintains that the selection door "remains open".
Bath contingent Matt Perry, Phil de Glanville, Mike Catt and Mike Tindall should all make the second January work out, while recalled England internationals such as Bedford scrum half Andy Gomarsall and Gloucester lock Rob Fidler will also hope to retain their training squad places.
"It is essential that I see as many players as possible during the two sessions, as they will be facing a demanding club schedule in January, including three games in eight days prior to the Ireland international," Woodward added.
"After the second session concludes on January 18, the squad will be broken down into two 26-man squads, one for the Six Nations and one for the forthcoming A games. Further players will be added into the A squad at that time."
England's current injured list reads: Johnson, Dan Luger, Paul Grayson, Nick Beal, Darren Garforth, Kyran Bracken, Martyn Wood, David Rees and Danny Grewcock.