Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nervous Ashton Hoping for Injury-Free Weekend; Please, Don't Hurt Me: Even Though He Starts on the Bench, Andy Gomarsall Is in for an Anxious Minutes at Sale's Edgeley Park

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nervous Ashton Hoping for Injury-Free Weekend; Please, Don't Hurt Me: Even Though He Starts on the Bench, Andy Gomarsall Is in for an Anxious Minutes at Sale's Edgeley Park

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

BRIAN ASHTON faces an anxious wait to discover how many of his squadhave avoided injury before the RBS Six Nations championship clash with Wales atTwickenham next Saturday.

With English rugby staging a full programme of Guinness Premiership matchesthis weekend, head coach Ashton must hold a medical roll call on Sunday nightwhile Warren Gatland, his opposite number with Wales, can sleep soundly in theknowledge his players have no club commitments.

Only when the new agreement governing English rugby comes into effect in Julywill Ashton be allowed to take his men out of club action in the buildup tomajor matches and tournaments.

Ashton's squad have already been forced to undergo MMR vaccinations followingPaul Sackey's dose of mumps and could still be without lock Simon Shaw, who isbattling to overcome an ankle injury. Scrum-half Peter Richards is ruled outfor three months with a serious bicep injury and now there are doubts over NickEaster (knee), Joe Worsley (neck) and Lewis Moody (groin).

The opening gambit in the game of injury chance takes place tonight whenHarlequins, featuring England No9 Andy Gomarsall, visit Sale whose scrumincludes loose head prop Andrew Sheridan, the most important forward inAshton's squad.

With the rest of the squad putting themselves in harms way over the next twodays, an outbreak of gallows humour is understandable.

Gomarsall brought up the subject of injuries when he met the Sale players atthe England squad session earlier this week, and they included RichardWrigglesworth, who is pressing the Quins veteran for the No9 jersey.

Gomarsall, who will start on the bench at Sale, said: "We were having a bit ofbanter with the Sale boys about the chance of injuries and I joked,'Gentleman's agreement, boys?' "They said, 'No, no, Gommers. …

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