Botham junior treads a different path
January 7, 2000

Liam Botham may not have been on the list of new blood being demanded by his father Ian in the wake of England's latest cricketing capitulation in South Africa.

Botham long ago underwent the conversion to rugby union after initially following in his dad's famous footsteps at Hampshire.

The 22-year-old, though, does harbour hopes of representing his country as the rugby selectors look for fresh faces following the disappointing World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of South Africa.

Botham was not among the 10 uncapped players in the training squad announced by England coach Clive Woodward yesterday.

But his performances at wing this season may eventually force Woodward to stand up and take note before the end of the inaugural Six Nations Championship.

Botham's consistent form has made him a regular in a Cardiff side whose Heineken Cup challenge faces it's crucial test against Montferrand tomorrow.

"Every rugby player's ambition is to play for England and I am the same,'' said Botham, who, weather permitting, will have to plough his 6ft 1ins 14st 9lb frame through the Arms Park mud.

"I have been very happy with my form this season and have got man of the match awards in two of our four Heineken Cup games so far.

"No-one from England has spoken to me yet, but I am not concerned about that. All I can do is carry on like I am, then hopefully I might get that telephone call.

"But my first duty is to Cardiff and all I am concentrating on at the moment is the game against Montferrand. It is the biggest game of my life and one which I am really looking forward to."

Botham is determined to help Cardiff avenge the 46-13 thrashing they received from Montferrand in France, a defeat which left them struggling in Pool E after dropping a point at home to Harlequins.

But back-to-back victories over Treviso have left Cardiff just one point behind Montferrand and knowing that their European destiny is in their own hands.

"If we win both games then we will win the group, so this match against Montferrand is vital for us," said Botham, who has made a brief appearance for England Under-21s.

"We were outclassed out there, but we can put the record straight tomorrow. In the last few games we have been playing well and we have to carry that form on.

"We have got world-class players here and we have had a lot of players coming back after the World Cup.

"It does take time to gel as a team, but that has started to happen if you look at our last few games.

"Leigh Davies and Gareth Thomas have got to be the best centre pairing in British rugby at the moment, then we have got the likes of Rob Howley at scrum-half and Neil Jenkins outside him."

Botham has no regrets about making the move from West Hartlepool to Cardiff, even though a switch to another English team would have kept him in the selectorial eye more.

"Cardiff is a huge club and it has been great for my game coming here," he said.
"It has been fantastic really. Apart from Rhys (Williams) and myself, just about everyone else in the team is an international. It is great to work alongside players like Rob and Neil."

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