HQ hat-trick for Leicester pack

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

The Leicester forwards will complete a remarkable hat-trick in Saturday's Pilkington Cup final against Bath when they appear together for the third time in four years at the Twickenham showpiece, whose attendance this year will be 75,000.

This will be the biggest sporting crowd in Britain this weekend and a world record for a rugby union club match, exceeding the 68,000 present to see the same finalists two years ago. Last Saturday Bath relieved Leicester of the Courage Championship.

The same Leicester eight who faced Bath in 1994 and Harlequins in 1993 will be augmented by three of the backs who played in '94 whereas Bath, who have injury problems, will have only eight of those who beat the Tigers two years ago. Even so they will field 12 internationals - nine English and three Scottish - to Leicester's six, who include the Irish stand-off Niall Malone, preferred to Jez Harris.

John Wells has been passed fit after a back injury to return to the Leicester back row, but Bath will be without two of their current England players, Jeremy Guscott (thigh) and Ben Clarke (ankle) - which in Clarke's case is likely to mean he has played his last game for the club. Richmond have a major announcement to make next Tuesday.

Other absent Bath internationals include Victor Ubogu and Simon Geoghegan, neither of whom has participated in the First Division run-in. However, Phil de Glanville, Andy Nicol and Graham Dawe have all been passed fit, and at prop Dave Hilton has withstood the strong challenge of Kevin Yates.

England's Third Division clubs yesterday pledged their support to the Rugby Football Union in the negotiations with First and Second Division clubs that resume in London today over how the professional game will be run and financed.

Bath (v Leicester, Pilkington Cup final, Twickenham, 4 May): J Callard; J Sleightholme, P de Glanville (capt), A Adebayo, A Lumsden; M Catt, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Dawe, J Mallett, M Haag, N Redman, S Ojomoh, E Peters, A Robinson. Replacements: R Butland, I Sanders, D Crompton, G French, A Reed, E Pearce.

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, R Robinson, R Underwood; N Malone, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, D Richards (capt), N Back. Replacements: J Harris, J Hamilton, D Jelley, D West, C Tarbuck, W Drake-Lee.

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