Orrell lose Healey to Leicester

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

How convenient that Austin Healey should be in Hong Kong for this weekend's international sevens and so miss Orrell's pioneering four-mile journey to Wigan to play the champions, Leicester, tomorrow - because yesterday the Lancashire club announced the loss of their England A scrum-half to... Leicester.

Healey's absence, albeit diplomatic, from this match alone is bad enough but his permanent loss is much, much worse for a club anxiously seeking resources to fund the new professionalism next season. The converted wing, at 22 an exceptional prospect, has agreed a three-year contract from next season with his new club.

Not that Leicester have yet announced their own plans for funding the new dispensation but a membership of 14,000 gives them a head start and anyway, as Peter Williams, Orrell's rugby director, dolefully acknowledged, Healey will be only the latest in a line of high-quality ex-Orrell players. He joined the club from Waterloo in 1994.

"Austin has signed for Leicester to better his chances of playing for England and I have no qualms about his motives at all," said Williams, whose personal experience, like Healey's, includes leaving Orrell to take up a contract on offer elsewhere - though in 1988 it was rugby league that paid the wages. "It looks as though we are always going to lose good players but that's the way of things.''

A job is what rugby union is about to become to its leading practitioners - hence Healey's move. Mark Ring, the former Wales stand-off, is already in rugby employment as West Hartlepool's player-coach and he will make his league debut against Saracens tomorrow, too late to save West from relegation unless it transpires that there is none.

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