Bath leave out Nicol in favour of Sanders

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Rugby Union

Andy Nicol, Bath's Scotland scrum-half, was last night dropped from the side to open the defence of the Pilkington Cup in Saturday's fourth- round tie against Northampton at the Recreation Ground.

The Bath choice was communicated from Portugal on the final full day of a training camp intended to relaunch the team after a seven-week break from league rugby. Bath lead the First Division with 10 wins from 10, Northampton the Second with the same record.

Nicol's exclusion, in favour of the Cornishman Ian Sanders, compounds a disconcertingly poor start to the Scot's career in England. He joined Bath as long ago as the beginning of last season but spent all of it recovering from a knee injury and throughout the first half of this season he has struggled to withstand Sanders.

There is no place either for Audley Lumsden and Adedayo Adebayo, who have filled the wing positions for most of the season but are displaced by Simon Geoghegan of Ireland and Jon Sleightholme of England A. Even without Nicol, however, Bath field 12 internationals.

Bristol, away to Reading, are relieved to have been able to select the England hooker, Mark Regan, who was exonerated by the Gloucestershire disciplinary committee when he appeared for receiving two yellow cards, the most recent for tripping in a non-league match at Moseley on 2 December.

The breakneck progress of Alex King, the student stand-off who has emerged from the comparative obscurity of Bristol University to play for the South- West and England A, will continue with his debut for the Barbarians in their festive match against Leicester next Wednesday. King is joined by an exotic concoction made up of a South African, a Canadian, a Samoan and two Frenchmen as well as five Welshmen, three Scots and his England A half-back partner, Andy Gomarsall.

Harlequins yesterday announced the establishment of their own sports scholarships at the University of Surrey in Guildford to enable students - probably about five initially - to remain in higher education an extra year and so allow time to prepare for and compete in rugby. Each scholarship is worth pounds 8,000 and, as the club and university stress, is dependent on the recipient being able to satisfy academic as well as sporting criteria.

BARBARIANS (v Leicester, Wednesday, 27 December): J Thomas (Llanelli); D Lougheed (Toronto Welsh), L Davies (Neath), G Shiel (Melrose), W Proctor (Llanelli); A King (Bristol University), A Gomarsall (Wasps); M Mika (Otago University), J Hay (Hawick), D Laperne, P Berek (Dax), G Prosser (Pontypridd), A Gibbs (Newbridge), R Straeuli (Transvaal), I Morrison (London Scottish).

n The All Black Jonah Lomu has been voted player of the year by the Rugby Writers' Club.

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