Shaw-fire winner

by PETER JACKSON, Daily Mail

Last updated at 16:05 05 April 2004

Wasps gave England a thumping hint yesterday over the international future of the second-row giant otherwise known as the Invisible Man of the World Cup.

Simon Shaw's towering part in Northampton's worst beating of the Premiership campaign raised fresh hope that he may yet achieve something in New Zealand in June which has eluded him all season - a full Test appearance.

After collecting a winner's medal despite watching the World Cup as a redundant substitute and sitting out most of the Six Nations, it would make a change.

If he fails, it will not be for any lack of vociferous support from an influential quarter. England skipper Lawrence Dallaglio referred to his fellow Wasp's lack of international exposure as "a mystery to lots of people".

Eye-catching performance

Shaw, summoned to Australia last autumn after Danny Grewcock broke his hand, earned top billing yesterday. That took some doing given the fizzing quality of Wasps' performance.

"Simon would be in anyone's Premiership team because he provides a hard, physical edge which only a few bring to the position," said Dallaglio.

"He also has a footballing side to his game. There is a mighty tough tour coming up and you will want tough people for New Zealand and Australia. He's a players' player, one you really need when the going gets tough."

Wasps, revving up for the critical stage of their bid for an English and European double, were so good that the meeting of the teams placed second and third behind Bath turned out to be a no-contest.

Dallaglio called it a "statement of intent". After laying the Saints low in High Wycombe, the statement will have been heard loudest in Gloucester, Wasps' European Cup quarter-final opponents on Sunday.

Northampton's run ended

Northampton arrived on a wave of five consecutive Premiership wins and hoping a sixth would put them on the road to a home tie in next month's semi-final play-off.

A defeat which leaves them looking anxiously over their shoulders at Gloucester, a mere two points behind in fourth place, left Wayne Smith no option but to admit to a "gulf" between the teams.

The former All Black coach, who returns home next month to pick up where he was so rudely interrupted three years ago, knows the Saints must win two of their three remaining matches if he is to be in with any chance of signing off at Twickenham in the Grand Final.

They missed enough tackles and turned over enough possession to leave Wasps wondering how they failed to get the fourth try for a bonus point.

Shaw created the first, breaking John Leslie's tackle and causing damage for Trevor Leota to pull in the defence on the left and Joe Worsley to go hurtling in at the opposite corner.

Shaw's combination of raw muscle and deft skills paved the way for prop Will Green to charge unopposed behind the posts.

Northampton's solitary riposte brought full back Bruce Reihana his sixth try in four matches but Wasps were always going to have the final word, Tom Voyce pouncing on a hopeful lob from substitute hooker Steve Thompson and streaking over from 40 yards.

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