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Cricket of Saturday, 20 October 2007


"Ghanaian" in rugby world cup finals

PAUL SACKEY's dominant displays for England at the World Cup have marked him out as one of the stars of the tournament, and even drawn praise from All Black legend Jonah Lomu.

The Wasps flyer, one of the heroes as England pulled off a shock 12-10 success against Australia in the quarter-finals, was omitted from England's opening clash with the USA, and struggled when picked out of position on the left wing in the 36-0 drubbing by South Africa a week later. Switched back to the right by coach Brian Ashton, Sackey has emerged as England's most potent attacking weapon, alongside Jason Robinson, bagging two tries against Tonga and Samoa to power the defending champions in to the semi-finals and beyond.

The son of Ghanaian parents and a good enough schoolboy footballer to earn trials with Crystal Palace, it's fair to say Sackey does not conform to the stereotype of some rugby players. He was a prolific try scorer at London Irish and Bedford, but his England credentials were enhanced when he made the move to Wasps in 2003.

role model

The 28-year-old, who began the World Cup with four caps to his name, but now looks certain to bag many more, saw Jeremy Guscott - known as the Rolls-Royce of centres in the 1990s - as a role model when younger.

Sackey said: "Growing up, Jeremy Guscott was my hero, but when I look around the squad now, it's got to be Jason Robinson. Although clearly relishing the experience of suddenly finding himself a key member of the side, Sackey retains the team ethic so vital to rugby.

He added: "Everyone has a job to do, mine is to score tries. I don't think anyone has more of a role than anyone else. One person doesn't make a team. I don't feel like I'm the go-to man at the moment. Everyone is."

But, despite his reticence to talk himself up, there is no hiding the fact that Sackey's star is in the ascendancy. No winger in history has made an impact like Lomu did at the 1995 World Cup, so when he speaks, it's worth listening. Lomu said: "I've been really impressed with Sackey. He has real pace and a finishers' instinct. If England can get the ball to him on a regular basis, he is going to do some damage."

Published: 15 October 2007
Issue: 1291<

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