Hopley hoping to go semi-pro

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The Independent Online
DAVID LLEWELLYN

Damian Hopley has become a part-time professional. Hopley, a centre, who turns out for his club Wasps in his England position of right wing in the Pilkington Cup fourth-round tie at Sale today, has given up a job in the City of London.

"I'm speaking to a number of people at the moment," Hopley, 25, said. ``I'm looking to go semi-professional, working as a promotions officer or consultant." The trend to go full or part-time pro has already been set by, among others, Tony Underwood, Martin Bayfield, Dean Richards and Kyran Bracken.

"The England contract helped. To have that cushion made the decision a lot easier," Hopley, a theology graduate, said. "I felt my lifestyle up to now was not beneficial to my rugby; I was getting up at 6am, working through to 6pm then having to go and train. Now I will have time to train and time to rest."

No rest today, though. Wasps did win at Sale in the league earlier this season but Paul Turner's side will be no pushover. The Wasps' captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, has been picked in his England position of open side flanker.

Their London neighbours Harlequins have not been so obliging. Their captain Jason Leonard, who played at tighthead against Western Samoa, is back at loosehead for the trip to Orrell, who have won the two previous Cup encounters between the clubs.

The match of the day is between First Division leaders, Bath, and their Second Division counterparts, Northampton. Bath have been adopting an expansive approach all season and it sounds as if captain Phil de Glanville intends to continue the process at The Rec today. "We have established a very clear playing pattern during the first 10 league games," said the Bath and England centre, "and much of the time in Portugal this week was spent fine-tuning our skills." The selection of Simon Geoghegan and Jon Sleightholme on each wing certainly points to possible difficulties for Northampton.

The Glamorgan batsman Steve James switches from flannelled fool to muddied oaf when the Division Five South leaders, Lydney, travel to Winnington Park, the Division Five North side coached by the former England scrum- half Dewi Morris. "We don't really know much about them," James said yesterday, "we know it's going to be hard."

Saracens have a lengthy injury list but are still confident of beating Third Division Rugby Lions. This match at Southgate kicks off at 1.45pm.

Elsewhere Rob Andrew's Newcastle tackle Moseley, Leicester travel to Exeter whom, three years ago, they thrashed 76-0, Bristol are at Third Division Reading and Worcester's first season in the competition has rewarded them with a trip to Second Division Bedford. Two former finalists, London Irish and London Welsh, will be joined in a battle of the exiles in a near sell-out match at Sunbury.

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