Wilson & Downey continue to catch the eye

The star names at Leinster will rightly march into the Heineken Cup final as favourites. But the green shirted opposition will also have a few men staking a claim for Declan Kidney’s World Cup Squad.

James Downey and Roger Wilson were both to the fore as Northampton confidently swept aside the threat of Perpignan in Milton Keynes on Sunday.

Kidney, may well find himself already brimming with back row talent, with Leinster and Munster each providing fierce competition in this area. But Wilson, the former Ulster number eight, was tireless in high temperatures against the French side from Cataluña. Doubtless he will relish the opportunity of showcasing himself against the current owner of the Irish number eight jersey.

That goes double for Downey. Gordon D’Arcy’s switch to inside centre was a somewhat revolutionary move by Eddie O’Sullivan back in 2004. Now though, the worm has turned again. Most top ranking sides are now reverting to a big, crash-ball enthusiast in the 12 jersey.

At 30 years of age, Downey is not exactly one for the future. And his lack of international experience could be a huge drawback. But he fits the bill of the change that has engulfed the game because tackle breakers have become so valuable.

Elsewhere, with curtailed schedules in all three of the top European leagues, the dramatic action was taking place In the English Championship. Neil Best and Worcester just about seen off the challenge from Bedford thanks to a late Kai Horstmann try which gave them with a 23-22 win in the semi-final playoff.

The win saves the integrity of the league (for now) as Worcester are the only side in the final four who meet the criteria needed for promotion into the Aviva Premiership.

Should the warriors fail, then there will be no relegation from the top division. So the dramatic late score at Sixways must surely have been a crushing blow to Tim Ryan and Jeremy Manning at Newcastle Falcons who are struggling at the foot of the table, narrowly ahead of Leeds Carnegie.

Manning scored a 76th minute try, on his comeback from injury, for Newcastle as they went down to 14-11 to Bath.


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