Rugby Union: Achilles tendency strikes Gloucester

IT MUST be catching. Gloucester's most expensive signing of the season, the former Wales flanker and captain Kingsley Jones, will miss the rest of the Premiership campaign after rupturing an Achilles tendon during the narrow defeat at Wasps last Sunday, thereby emulating Jon Preston, his direct counterpart at neighbouring Bath, who managed to prang himself in identical fashion at Harlequins a month ago. Were it not for their bad luck, neither of the West Country's fallen giants would have any luck at all.

Jones' Premiership career was only 160 minutes old when he suffered one of the most painful injuries in the medical lexicon and while he lasted 140 minutes longer than Preston, who barely had time to lace up his boots before being forced to swap one of them for a plaster cast, it was not quite what the Cherry and Whites had in mind when they signed him from Ebbw Vale in November. "He's had an operation and he's looking at six months on the sidelines," John Fidler, the Gloucester team manager, said.

Ironically, Gloucester meet Bath at Kingsholm on Saturday in an derby of profound significance; both sides are on the slide after a run of Premiership defeats and the respective coaches, Richard Hill and Andy Robinson, are beginning to feel the heat. Gloucester shelved plans to name their side yesterday - Philippe Saint-Andre, their French international wing, is struggling with a thigh strain - and while Bath were happy to reveal their hand, there was still a doubt over Dan Lyle, the influential American No 8, who lost almost a stone in weight to the virus that laid him low last week.

Jon Callard will play, however, a decision that leaves Matt Perry among the replacements despite being England's pre-eminent full-back. Bath pulled the same stunt a little under a year ago when they recalled Callard to kick the goals against Brive in the Heineken Cup final and it is a sign of their desperation that they feel obliged to repeat the gamble.

Bristol, the third and, for the time being, lowliest of the traditional West Country triumvirate, plan to announce a new forwards coach next week following the departure of David Egerton. The former Bath and England No 8 cited business and family reasons for his decision. "My wife is expecting in February and I have too much on my plate," he explained.

Bob Dwyer, director of rugby at the Memorial Ground, has already lined up a replacement and expects to confirm the appointment before his side's Tetley's Bitter Cup match with London Irish on Sunday week. Darryl Jones, who split the coaching duties with Egerton last season, will continue in his role as backs specialist.

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