Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 24 News List

Ireland's O'Driscoll to captain north in tsunami-aid match

AFP , LONDON

Ireland center Brian O'Driscoll has been given an opportunity to prove his ability to captain the British and Irish Lions in their southern hemisphere tour this summer when he was named skipper of Sir Clive Woodward's side in next month's Tsunami-relief match in Twickenham.

Woodward, coach of the northern hemisphere side, selected O'Driscoll ahead of Paul O'Connell, the Irish lock who led his country in O'Driscoll's absence against Scotland on Saturday and is another being touted as a possible Lions captain.

"We have a fantastic group of players that are being invited to play and I am looking forward to choosing the starting XV for the game in March and working with such an outstanding player as Brian in his role as captain," said Woodward, who will have the chance to guage the form of a number of Lions hopefuls ahead of the IRB Rugby Aid charity match on March 5.

Ireland's Malcolm O'Kelly and David Humphreys were confirmed in the squad, while Scotland scrum-half Chris Cusiter, number eight Simon Taylor and hooker Gordon Bulloch are all in the squad.

England's Premiership clubs will release eight players for the game and amongst those invited are Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Robinson and Steve Thompson, while Wales center Gavin Henson has been asked to play along with France captain Fabien Pelous and Italy's Marco Bortolami.

The southern hemisphere side, to be coached by Rod Macqueen, who led Australia to World Cup glory in 1999, will include South African pair John Smit and Schalk Burger, Australians George Gregan and Chris Latham plus and Tana Umaga and Andrew Mehrtens from New Zealand.

"I think that all of the rugby community recognizes the importance of getting behind this game -- not only the players and coaches but administrators, clubs and unions, all of whom are looking to support the nations affected by the tragedy," Woodward said.

"It is important to get a top quality team to sell out this fixture and well done to Rod Macqueen on those players that he has named to participate in what will be a wonderful occasion for a great cause," he said.

England suffers blow

England suffered a blow ahead of their intimidating trip to Six Nations leaders Ireland with the news that prop Julian White will miss the Feb. 27 match because of a neck injury.

According to BBC radio on Wednesday the 31-year-old Leicester Tigers player has failed to recover from the neck injury which forced him out of the 18-17 loss to France last Sunday.

White could be out for up to three weeks and may return for the games against Italy and Scotland.

Happier news for England and Ireland was that White's clubmates, English duo Harry Ellis and Lewis Moody and Irish fullback Geordan Murphy will not start the Premiership match with Newcastle on Saturday.

France's injuries

Outstanding French flanker Serge Betsen could miss the crucial Six Nations match with fellow unbeaten side Wales at the Stade de France on Feb. 26 because of a right leg injury, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old 45-times capped Biarritz star was to have undergone a scan on his leg on Tuesday -- having suffered the injury during a stellar match for France in the miraculous 18-17 victory over world champions England on Sunday -- but it was put off till yesterday.

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