Pienaar's debut relies on Bath's hot air

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The Independent Online
Bath and Saracens are making every effort to beat the big freeze and bring the former South African captain, Francois Pienaar, out of cold storage today.

Bath have blasted the Recreation Ground with 10 industrial hot-air blowers, and plans are in place for an all-night shift by club staff and volunteers. The pitch was passed by Ed Morrison's preliminary inspection yesterday afternoon.

"If there is the slightest chance of it being on, then we will be in Bath this evening," Mike Scott, the Saracens team manager, said yesterday.

"We don't want a fixture pile-up, and neither do Bath. I know they are working flat out so let's hope those efforts get their reward."

The First Division's top match is one of three that have so far survived bitter weather conditions. Gloucester's home game against Northampton fell victim to the frost and Northampton declined to try again on Sunday.

Orrell's match against London Irish, one of their main relegation rivals, was called off on Thursday but West Hartlepool report no problems at Brierton Lane for Bristol's visit. The derby between Wasps and Harlequins at Loftus Road looks a safe bet for tomorrow.

Pienaar, a pounds 400,000 signing from Transvaal, will line up alongside fellow high-profile recruits Michael Lynagh and Philippe Sella if the game at Bath goes ahead.

The home side welcome back Phil de Glanville after injury but their Scottish flanker, Eric Peters, has withdrawn through ankle trouble and Richard Webster deputises.

Bristol have Robert Jones on board for their trip to the north east, and he is relishing his first game since undergoing back surgery. "Everything went well when I played in a second team game last weekend. There wasn't one instance of a twinge or anything," he said.

Bristol will be without the England lock, Simon Shaw, who has a slight back niggle and he will be replaced by Phil Adams.

West award a league debut to Liam Botham, son of Ian, who has shaken off flu, but their player-coach, Mark Ring, remains unfit after injury.

Wasps will replace Leicester as league leaders if they beat Quins, and effectively end the title prospects of their arch rivals. Quins make several changes after being beaten by Leicester last week. The French back Thierry Lacroix, signed for pounds 250,000, makes his outside-half debut, with Robbie Paul, Glyn Llewellyn and Rory Jenkins also drafted in.

Dan Lyle, the 6ft 5in and 17st 12lb forward who has made such an impact since joining Bath, will captain the United States when they make a belated start to their Wales tour in today's match against Neath at Cardiff Arms Park.

Lyle, who will captain the Eagles from the back row, is joined by six other British-based players as the Americans begin the build-up to the Test against Wales next Saturday.

The centre Geraint Evans returns to the Neath side having been out of action since fracturing his jaw during the game against Cardiff in early November.

UNITED STATES (v Neath, Cardiff Arms Park, today): C Morrow (Gentlemen of Aspen); V Anitoni (Yankees), B Wikeepa (Seattle), M Scharrenberg (Reading), B Hightower (Gentlemen of Aspen); M Alexander (Denver Barbarians), A Bachelet (Reading); C Lippert (Rugby), T Billups (Reading), B LeClerc (Gentlemen of Aspen), L Gross (Harlequins), A Parker (Gentlemen of Aspen), D Lyle (Bath), J Wilkerson (Belmont Shore), R Lumkong (Pontypridd).