Hot on the heels of the news that 34 year old warhorse Lorenzo Bruno Nero Dallaglio has been recalled to England’s 47-strong Rugby World Cup training squad, it has emerged that wily old England head coach Brian Ashton is hatching a cunning contingency plan behind the scenes.
At a secret location just outside Hereford lies a military training camp housing a number of veteran rugby players who are being put through their paces by special forces fitness instructors in order to get them ready for selection for the final World Cup squad in mid August.
While Ashton remains tight lipped about any such plan, a source close to the landlord at the Spread Eagle Inn in Hereford revealed:
“What Brian Ashton has recognised is that his squad lacks experience and leadership which is why Dallaglio was brought back. However, privately Brian doesn’t think this will be enough and so, although I can’t reveal the identities of the players he has in camp here, I can tell you that he is planning to bring in some big names from the past”.
Several pints of Hook Norton later it was revealed that the players involved include nineties heroes Brian Moore (45 ) and Mickey Skinner ( 49 ), former England captains Bill Beaumont (55) and Budge Rogers (74), as well as legendary winger David Duckham (61) and former BBC commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith ( 63 ).
When told of this development Sunday Times columnist Stephen Jones said:
“This is wonderful news. As I’ve always said, England will never win anything with callow youths in the team. These older players will bring vital leadership and years of experience into the England set-up and what’s more they’ve all put on so much weight since their playing days they’ll now be more than a match for the Springboks physically.”
Reports that the names of Prince Alexander Obolensky and Wavell Wakefield have already been pencilled into Ashton’s final squad can probably be dismissed on account of both players being long since dead, although a lack of vital signs does not appear to have hampered the careers of Ben Cohen and Ian Balshaw.