Martin Johnson and Warren Gatland announce their 32-man squads for the up-coming autumn internationals.
Cipriani back in the England squad
LONDON // Danny Cipriani, Nick Abendanon and Michael Lipman have been added to England's 32-man elite squad under the injury replacement rule. Under the rules of the new agreement between the RFU and England's clubs, the manager Martin Johnson named his squad for the four November internationals at the start of the season and was allowed to make changes only in case of injury. The fly-half Cipriani was not initially included as it was thought he would not have recovered from his broken ankle in time but the Wasps man has returned to action earlier than expected and comes in for Jonny Wilkinson, who has a dislocated knee cap. Abendanon has been in top form for Bath and the fullback replaces Tom Varndell of Leicester, while Lipman comes in for Lewis Moody in another Bath-Leicester swap. "The England medical team and I will continue to liaise closely with Jonny and Lewis and their clubs and I wish both of them a speedy recovery," Johnson said. "Lewis is getting closer to playing for Leicester and I look forward to seeing him back in action soon. "Danny Cipriani has made a good recovery from his injury and returned earlier than expected. He's performed well since he came back and while there was strong competition from other players. "I have decided to give Danny the chance to compete for a place in the 22 for the Pacific Islanders match on Nov 8. "Michael Lipman was very unlucky not to make the original 32-man squad and he has been playing very well for his club this season." Abendanon's replacement of Varndell might be seen as bending the rules as the latter has been left out of the Leicester team in recent weeks on form, rather than fitness. England also play Australia, the World Champions South Africa and New Zealand in that order on successive Saturdays at Twickenham next month. The Wales coach Warren Gatland, also announced his squad by naming five new players in his 32-man squad for the November internationals, but appealed to the International Rugby Board (IRB) to secure more time with his players. Gatland and the Welsh Rugby Union are locked in an ongoing club-versus-country row with the four national regions over player release ahead of the Grand Slam winners' games against South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Kiwi coach faces the prospect of having just five days with his squad to prepare for the visit of the World Champions visit Nov 8 with the Welsh regions involved in the final pool round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup the previous week. "I haven't resigned myself to not having the players before Monday. We've gone to the IRB with a formal request and hopefully we will get that over the next 24 hours," Gatland said.
"I have to admit I've been pretty despondent about the whole thing. There are no winners here. "Everyone realises five days preparation for an international these days is not ideal. If that happens then we will have to deal with it and get on, but unfortunately you will have 74,500 spectators in the Millennium Stadium not seeing the best prepared Wales team against South Africa. "All we want is the same as Scotland wanted with their players. We just want a few days before the final EDF (Anglo-Welsh) Cup games to prepare, otherwise we will only have two training sessions with the Ospreys players after their game on the Sunday."
The Ospreys form the bulk of Wales squad with 13 players, including the captain Ryan Jones and the centre Gavin Henson. Henson has been selected despite playing barely 100 minutes of rugby since last March following an ankle operation and a club suspension for a row with the coaching staff two weeks ago. The Sale Sharks' 21-stone prop Eifion Roberts, 27, is handed his first call up while Cardiff back-row Andy Powell is rewarded for his man-of-the-match display against Gloucester on Sunday, replacing Jonathan Thomas, who is out with a groin injury.
Teenagers Dan Biggar, of the Ospreys, and Cardiff wing Leigh Halfpenny have been promoted from the Welsh Junior World Cup squad while Llanelli scrum-half Martin Roberts is also included as Mike Phillips is still sidelined through injury. "I've promoted giving youngsters a chance so it's very pleasing to be able to give Dan, Leigh and Martin an opportunity to be a part of the squad," Gatland added. "This is a very exciting series but it is also important for the world rankings and we have never hidden from our ambition to climb higher."