If the cap fits ...

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:52 PM ET

So what's a scrum half like you doing in a place like this?

Fair question if the scrum half in question is one Andy Gomarsall MBE, member of England's 2003 World Cup-winning side and a 23-times capped international.

This is the Churchill Cup. This is the event where England sends players who aren't one of the 22 on tour with the British and Irish Lions, who are currently travelling in the Southern Hemisphere with some 12,000 fans in tow.

"I'm here to prove a point to the coaches who left me out. That's why I'm here,'' said Gomarsall at breakfast yesterday.

"I'm very proud that I wore No. 9 on England's only World Cup championship team. I'm very proud of my MBE. I'm very proud of my 23 caps.

"My intention is to restore the No. 9 jersey I lost in the Six Nations tournament.

"I had a good start to my season with the Autumn International. But then my club team started to really struggle and I wasn't selected for Six Nations. I haven't missed that event in a long while. Not playing in the Six Nations left a big hole in my season. Now I'm here to prove a point.

"I want to wear the No. 9 jersey in the 2007 World Cup and have the chance to win it again. I'm going to keep fighting for that position.''

World Cup champion Gomarsall and his MBE are what you might call "value added'' to this year's Churchill Cup.

Like the rest of the best of England's 2003 World Cup winning side, Gomarsall is still over the moon about being named a Member of the British Empire.

HONOURED BY THE QUEEN

"When we came back we were honoured by the Queen and an MBE was bestowed on the entire squad at Buckingham Palace. It still hasn't sunk in.''

He thinks, because it was England's first-ever rugby World Cup win and because all the players from the 1966 soccer World Cup win were all eventually awarded the MBE, it was decided to take care of them all at once this time. "It's unique for an entire team to be honoured with the MBE right away.''

Gomarsall says England is knee-deep in scrum halfs with no lack of young bucks on their way. That's another reason he's here.

"It's very competitive to wear that No. 9 jersey,'' says the 30-year-old.

Of the 22 players England coach Joe Lydon named yesterday for England's game against Canada Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium, 15 have never been capped before.

INJURED CAPTAIN

Of the 15 starters named for the 3 p.m. game which follows the noon opener between Argentina and the U.S.A., the other 14 have a total of 16 caps between them.

Six of those belong to often-injured captain Pat Sanderson, seven to wing James Simpson-Daniel, two to fly half Andy Goode and one to poor Tom Palmer, who came to the Churchill Cup two years ago and suffered a serious knee injury.

Understand they don't throw caps around in rugby like they do in soccer where even an international friendly gets you a cap. In rugby it must be no less than a test match.

For example, the Lions tour involves 10 matches but only the three test matches against the New Zealand All Blacks come with caps. Being selected vice-captain for the Churchill Cup team is as good as a cap to Gomarsall.

"The vice-captain is very much an honour. I've always taken a leadership role on the team anyway. When you play my position you are the eyes and ears on the team, especially for the forwards, guiding them around the pitch. It's much the same as the quarterback in American football.''

Gomarsall says if anybody thinks England is over here on a holiday, forget it. For most of these players, this is their big break.

"The players selected to this team are mostly young players who had very good domestic seasons. Because this is two years out from the 2007 World Cup, what these players show here is going to go a long way to helping their chances to be on that team.''

If you think any of them are going to pull parachutes against host Canada, dream on.

Certainly not Gomarsall.


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