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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
England hit by Euro final line-up
England coach Brian Ashton
Ashton will have mixed feelings about the Heineken Cup final
England's resources for next month's first Test against South Africa will be severely stretched after Leicester and Wasps reached the Heineken Cup final.

The two clubs supplied nine of the starting line-up for England's most recent Test, including the entire pack.

The first Test against the Springboks is just six days after the 20 May final and director of rugby Rob Andrew said no player will appear in both matches.

Bath's European Challenge Cup final on 19 May compounds England's problems.

England captain Phil Vickery admitted to mixed emotions after Wasps' victory over Northampton meant he would play in the Heineken Cup final but miss the first Test.

606: DEBATE
BB

Vickery said: "It is brilliant to be in the final of the Heineken Cup. We have got there with a lot of hard work, so it is a shame that six days later it is the first Test against South Africa.

"If (England coach) Brian Ashton had any hair left, he would be pulling it out. It must be frustrating for him.

"It is disappointing for everyone - for South Africa, for England. Good planning again from the people running the game," he added with heavy irony.

With three English teams in the Heineken Cup semi-finals and Saracens and Bath in the European Challenge Cup last four, some kind of problem was always a distinct possibility.

But the wins for Leicester, Wasps and Bath have provided the worst possible outcome for Ashton.

MISSING IN ACTION: The England stars and hopefuls who could miss out on the first Test
LEICESTER: Martin Corry, Julian White, George Chuter, Ben Kay, Lewis Moody, Louis Deacon, Dan Hipkiss, Harry Ellis, Tom Varndell

WASPS: Phil Vickery, Tom Rees, Tom Palmer, Joe Worsley, James Haskell, Danny Cipriani, Josh Lewsey, Paul Sackey, Lawrence Dallaglio

BATH: Lee Mears, Matt Stevens, Steve Borthwick, Olly Barkley, Danny Grewcock, Nick Abendanon

Leicester and Wasps have established England players such as Vickery, scrum-half Harry Ellis, lock Martin Corry and flanker Joe Worsley among their number.

And Bath have fringe England players including Lee Mears and Olly Barkley in their squad, as well as prop Matt Stevens who is returning to fitness after a serious shoulder injury.

"You can't prepare guys to play a Test at altitude in Bloemfontein six days later (than the Heineken Cup final). It's not possible," said Andrew earlier this month.

No decision has been taken yet about the availability of the players for the second Test against South Africa on 2 June.

The two-Test South Africa tour is part of England's preparations for the World Cup defence in France which begins on 7 September.

England have three other warm-up matches before the tournament gets under way - against Wales on 4 August and against France on 11 and 18 August.

SEE ALSO
Northampton 13-30 Wasps
22 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Leicester 33-17 Scarlets
21 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Saracens 30-31 Bath
22 Apr 07 |  English
Wales 27-18 England
17 Mar 07 |  Rugby Union


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