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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 07:26 GMT
Wigglesworth 'right for England'
By Nabil Hassan

Philippe Saint-Andre and Richard Wigglesworth
Wigglesworth has represented England at every level

Sale coach Philippe Saint-Andre says he is confident that England newcomer Richard Wigglesworth has the mentality required for international rugby.

Scrum-half Wigglesworth starts his first international on Saturday when England take on France in Paris.

"Richard showed against Leicester two years ago in the Premiership final he can cope with big-match pressure," Saint-Andre told BBC Sport.

"He's an intelligent scrum-half, he reads the game very well."

He added: "His passing is excellent and his decision-making is excellent, he knows when to give quick ball and when to give slow ball and also knows when to kick."

Wigglesworth has only 20 minutes of international experience to his name but he comes in for Andy Gomarsall on Saturday.

That 20 minutes came as a second-half replacement against Italy in Rome a fortnight ago and the Blackpool-born number nine has now forced his way into Brian Ashton's starting XV.

Wigglesworth is a product of Sale's academy system, having also represented England at schoolboy, under-19 and under-21 level, something Saint-Andre is very proud of.

Richard is an intelligent scrum-half, he reads the game very well and his passing is excellent

Philippe Saint-Andre

The 24-year-old made his debut against Bourgoin in the Heineken Cup in 2002, with the French side coached by Saint-Andre at the time.

And the Frenchman is delighted that Wigglesworth is winning the recognition that everyone at Edgeley Park feels he deserves.

"We are very pleased for him," stated Saint-Andre. "He is a young player who has come through our academy system and it makes us very proud to see players like Richard eventually playing for their country.

"Richard has been an important player for us in the past year in a number of positions."

The Kirkham Grammar School product has appeared at fly-half and on the wing for Sale as well as at scrum-half.

But it is in the number nine jersey where Saint-Andre feels his future lies, with both club and country.

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While some may question the decision to give someone their full debut in front of 80,000 French fans in Paris, Saint-Andre is sure his man has the big-match mentality needed to play international rugby.

"He is a young player with a bright future," said the Sale coach.

"He has enough experience to play for England and I am sure he will play international rugby for a long time.

"He had 20 minutes against Italy, has played for the Saxons, has played in big games for Sale in Europe and in the Premiership and has shown in those games that he can play well in important matches."

Wigglesworth did play a key part in Sale's Premiership final victory over Sale in 2006. His break set up Magnus Lund for Sale's second try in their 45-20 victory over Leicester.

And last summer he was part of the England Saxons side that reclaimed the Churchill Cup.

Richard Wigglesworth
Wigglesworth made his debut for Sale at the age of 19

Despite those achievements, he has struggled to win a regular starting position in Sale's XV, with Tongan Sililo Martens keeping him out of the side.

And with the arrival of Welshman Dwayne Peel next season, Wigglesworth's prospects look even more uncertain.

But Saint-Andre says Peel's arrival will only aid England's young scrum-half.

"Dwayne Peel will only help Richard improve," he confirmed.

"Competition for places is good, it keeps you on your toes as and makes you a better player."

France too will be blooding a new scrum-half, with Morgan Parra making his first Test start, and Saint-Andre is relishing what will be a fascinating contest.

He added: "It is great that we have two young scrum-halves on show on Saturday.

"With the World Cup four years away it is important to build early.

"There will be pressure on both and it will be important for the England forwards to win the battle and get them moving forward and set a platform to make it easy for Richard."

He's played in big games for his club and this is just another step up. Every step he's made since the age of 17 he's handled well

Sale academy manager James Wade

Wigglesworth is the latest in a string of players to have come through the ranks at Sale to play for England, an achievement academy manager James Wade is justifiably proud of.

"We've a good record for grooming players through our youth system and Richard's inclusion for England is great news for him and everyone at the club," said Wade.

"The likes of Charlie Hodgson, Mark Cueto, Chris Jones, Magnus Lund and Andy Titterall have all come through the ranks here. It's about mixing local players with world class talent like Sebastian Chabal and and Jason White and then we've got the perfect match."

Wade is confident Wigglesworth will cope with the pressure in Paris.

"He'll be fine. He's played in big games for his club and this is just another step up. Every step he's made since the age of 17 he's handled well," added Wade.

"Richard has worked really hard through his academy career and made himself a first-grade scrum-half. He deserves his chance at international level."

Wigglesworth follows in the footsteps of Steve Smith who played scrum-half for Sale and went on to become a member of England's famous Grand Slam team of 1980.



SEE ALSO
Wigglesworth handed England call
19 Feb 08 |  English
Andy Gomarsall column
20 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Smith confident of Hodgson debut
19 Feb 08 |  London Irish
France make changes for England
19 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Smith backs Hodgson for England
18 Feb 08 |  London Irish
Italy 19-23 England
10 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Geraghty left out of England team
06 Feb 08 |  London Irish
England 19-26 Wales
02 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
England add Wigglesworth to squad
06 Aug 07 |  Rugby Union
Richards ruled out of Six Nations
23 Jan 08 |  London Irish
England Saxons 17-13 NZ Maori
02 Jun 07 |  Rugby Union
Sale 45-20 Leicester
27 May 06 |  English


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