Rugby: Jenkins ready to forsake the Valleys for Bath

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The Independent Online
Neil Jenkins has spent much of the last two seasons trying to knock Bath from their high-altitude perch as the self-appointed powerbrokers of British rugby, mixing it with them as captain of Pontypridd in three outstanding Heineken Cup matches. Yesterday, his educated right boot was on the other foot as he discussed a possible move to the Recreation Ground.

Ponty officials reluctantly gave their most prized possession permission to talk after an approach from the six-times English champions and Jenkins, nicknamed "The Fruitbat" by his Lions colleagues in South Africa last summer, fairly flew across his beloved Welsh Valleys to chew the fat with Bath representatives. "It's a professional game and individuals have to decide what is best for them," said the heaviest points-scorer in Welsh history. "Maybe now is the time for a change."

A Pontypridd player since he turned 14, Jenkins earns a six-figure salary from club and international contracts. However, his Sardis Road deal expires at the end of the season and Bath, handsomely financed by Andrew Brownsword, the greetings card millionaire, are very much in the market for a top- notch goal-kicker to replace Jon Callard.

Bath have repeatedly cast their net on the far side of the Severn Bridge in the last couple of years, luring international loose forwards in Richard Webster and Nathan Thomas before signing Ieuan Evans, one of Welsh rugby's favourite sons, from Llanelli last summer.

Yet they remain exposed at outside-half. Mike Catt, who moved to No 10 when Stuart Barnes retired in 1994, may soon ask to be considered as a centre rather than a stand-off and his unsettled England A understudy, Richard Butland, is on the transfer list. A determined bid to coax Gregor Townsend away from Northampton ended in failure, leaving Bath no obvious option but to look west once more.

- Chris Hewett

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