June International Tours

England to announce SA tour squad

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Gloucester and Sale Sharks are expected to provide a large chunk of England boss Brian Ashton’s South Africa tour squad when it is announced at Twickenham on Tuesday.

England face the Springboks in Bloemfontein on May 26 and Pretoria seven days later, although Ashton has already confirmed players from Leicester, Wasps and Bath will not travel.

 

All three clubs are involved in European finals the weekend before England’s opening Test against their principal World Cup pool rivals.

 

This effectively means that England have lost the services of their top 66 players. (3 teams of 22).

 

If Ashton takes more than 30 players it could mean that England’s 100th best player could line up against the Springboks. 

The absence of around 30 tour possibilities, including injured quartet Mike Tindall, Olly Morgan, Tim Payne and James Forrester, means head coach Ashton’s resources are stretched.

Uncapped Gloucester forwards Nick Wood and Peter Buxton, together with club colleagues Andy Hazell and James Simpson-Daniel, have strong chances, while the Sale contingent could include Chris Jones, Jason Robinson, Mark Cueto, Stuart Turner, Andy Titterrell, Chris Jones, Dean Schofield and Magnus Lund.

Worcester lock Craig Gillies, Bristol second-row forward Roy Winters and Saracens hooker Matt Cairns will also be among those awaiting news of the 32-man party that will head to Johannesburg on May 15.

Ashton’s major problems are in the pack, particularly the front-row, where he cannot call on props Payne, Phil Vickery, Julian White, Matt Stevens or probably an injured Andrew Sheridan, or hookers George Chuter and Lee Mears.

Even possible third-choice hooker Dylan Hartley is a non-starter unless he can overturn a 26-week ban for gouging when he appears before a Rugby Football Union (RFU) appeal panel in London later this week.

Gillies, meanwhile, produced a line-out masterclass during Worcester’s Guinness Premiership survival victory over Saracens on Saturday.

“Craig has got an incredible talent for the lineout,” said Worcester skipper Pat Sanderson, a tour captaincy option alongside Robinson if Mike Catt does not recover in time from a back complaint.

“Our job was to make sure we delivered on the day, which we did, and if something else comes along for Craig he will be over the moon.

“He is certainly the best lineout forward in our league by a long way.”

Announcing his decision not to travel with the sizeable Leicester/Wasps/Bath contingent, Ashton said: “I reached the decision based on three principles.

“Firstly, the players will not have time to prepare and acclimatise for the first Test match; secondly, after their massive efforts spent in reaching the Heineken and European Challenge Cup finals, it gives this group of players the opportunity to recharge their batteries before meeting up again for the World Cup warm-up camps, which start on June 25.

“Finally, I also feel very strongly that the players I will select for the touring squad must be trusted and respected to fulfil the two fixtures against South Africa.”

England’s under-strength squad will inevitably evoke memories of their 1998 so-called “tour from hell” when they played seven games in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and lost every match, including a record 76-0 drubbing against the Wallabies. 
 

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