Richmond swoop for Pumas' flanker

Rugby Union
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Two more high-profile international captures, two fewer Courage League places for promising English youngsters. London has resembled a rugby refugee camp since Saracens and Harlequins started pulling in players from all points of the compass last spring, and yesterday another pair of capital clubs revealed their latest forays into the market place.

Rolando Martin, the hugely impressive Argentinian flanker, will join Richmond in the summer while Kenny Logan, the Scottish wing who farms 400 acres in Stirling, is close to agreeing a two-year deal with Wasps.

Both clubs will be significantly strengthened by their signings and as current leaders of their respective divisions, they can hardly be blamed for striking while the iron is hot. In the long run, however, English rugby's open door policy will inevitably leave some of the best home-grown talent outside on the pavement.

Martin, a 28-year-old open-side specialist from the San Isidro club in Buenos Aires, has been a Richmond target for some time. Ben Clarke, who captains the Londoners, faced the experienced Puma in a World Cup pool match in 1995 and pronounced him one of the best players he had ever confronted, and when Martin again impressed for Argentina at Twickenham last December, his stock rose even higher.

His arrival at the Athletic Ground on a pounds 50,000 salary will give the Second Division side, who already field Clarke and Scott Quinnell in their back row, a loose unit of something approaching world class.

Logan, meanwhile, could make his Wasps debut against Gloucester this weekend if he puts pen to paper for a reported pounds 150,000 over 30 months. "I've been with Stirling County since I started playing mini-rugby and it will be a wrench to leave," he said yesterday. "But you never get anywhere without testing yourself to the limit. This opportunity is too good to miss."

His decision will leave Saracens, north London neighbours of Wasps, feeling a touch deflated; they were courting Logan during the run-up to the Scotland- Wales match in January and at one point were confident of getting their man.

Having picked up more than their fair share of headlines by signing Michael Lynagh, Philippe Sella and Francois Pienaar, Sarries are now in danger of being overshadowed by their nearest and dearest, who have also made a pitch for Abdel Benazzi, the French captain.

Meanwhile, Welsh preparations for the Five Nations finale with England in Cardiff on Saturday week suffered yet more disruption yesterday when Mark Rowley, the aggressive lock forward from Pontypridd, wrote off his own chances of playing. Rowley broke his left wrist in Sunday's club match with Swansea.

With Arwel Thomas, David Young, Ieuan Evans, Christian Loader and the reserve prop, Lyndon Mustoe, all carrying injuries, the Welsh selectors were considering delaying the naming of their side until after this weekend's round of league fixtures, but the coach, Kevin Bowring, will now name a squad on Thursday.

Thomas, something of a star at stand-off for the Welsh during the international campaign, has his knee in a brace and is walking with the aid of crutches. An assessment of his chances will be made early next week.