Plain sailing for Jez

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The Independent Online
WITH Jez Harris stacking up the points once again season, it beggars belief that Leicester kept him pegged to second team obscurity for so long. He had appeared the rightful heir to the Tigers stand-off spot when Les Cusworth hung up his boots, b ut Brian Smith was then recruited, and after Smith came Gerry Ainscough. "That was it, that second kick in the teeth," recalls Harris. "I thought I'd just pack it up altogether."

Harris came back from the brink and, on Saturday, will presumably be reminding Tigers' fans of the wisdom of his decision. For on Saturday, the Courage League resumes, Leicester resume their perennial chase of Bath, and Harris will resume his phenomenal accumulation of points. Last season he was top scorer in League One with 202 points, and at the halfway stage this time round, he has already notched up 116.

What makes the figures even more impressive is the fact that Leicester are operating a rotating squad system this season. So having finally established himself as Welford Road's number one stand-off, he is having to share the position with Niall Malone and has had to stand down for two of the nine games.

Harris, a local boat-builder, is 29, has been at the club since he was 15, but it was only last season that his name first appeared at the top of points-scored columns. Towards the end of the previous season, John Liley had been the club's kicker, but when Liley was injured, Harris took the job and never gave it back. "It's nice to know that if I miss, he can step in," says Harris. On further investigation, it turns out that this has never been necessary.

LANZAROTE, particularly Club La Santa where England have been spending New Year, is something of an Olympic village. Back in August, Frank Bruno was there training and found himself joining Tim Rodber and the Northampton team for some pre-season line-outpractice; two years ago, Nigel Walker, still a sprint hurdler, was there with Colin Jackson and Mark McCoy, started throwing a rugby ball around with the Bath team, and has barely put on a pair of spikes since. The England team, though, can put away their autograph books; the most glamorous company they will find is the Swiss swiming team and the Belgian table-tennis squad.

WHEN the Five Nations approaches, the Welsh tend to go shooting themselves in the foot. Who else could come back from Lanzarote in worse condition than they left (three injured in mountain-biking collision in 1992)? This time round it is Hemi Taylor, theCardiff flanker, who has forfeited possibly the whole championship with a mystery hand injury. The Cardiff grapevine is ripe with rumour as to what exactly happened in Kiwis, a city wine bar, two nights before Christmas. The dog-bite theory i s losing weight; many prefer the conspiracy theory involving a glass outside the bar, and others say that an unfestive meeting with some St Peters players (who beat Cardiff in the Cup two seasons ago) was the cause. Those in the know are keeping tight-li pped; thebar-owner, meanwhile, is denying that Taylor was in there at all.