The West Countrymen will start their Allied Dunbar Premiership campaign against newly promoted Newcastle on Saturday without half their of first- choice line-up. The England backs Jon Sleightholme, Adedayo Adebayo and Jeremy Guscott, the Scottish scrum-half and captain Andy Nicol and three international forwards - John Mallett, Federico Mendez and Dan Lyle - are all injured and the dressing-room cynics have now altered their original prognostication to suggest that Blair will indeed get the players fitter than ever before, provided, of course, they recover a sufficient degree of fitness to start training.
Bath will field two rookie wings against Rob Andrew's outfit. Michael Wood, an England Under-21 cap signed on a month's loan from West Hartlepool, plays on the right flank with the second debutant, the Irish trialist Brian Roche, on the left. Another former West Hartlepool player, the back- rower Russell Earnshaw, makes his first league appearance at The Rec on the open side.
Away from the glitzy high life of the Premiership, the building group Jewson yesterday announced a seven-figure investment in the Rugby Football Union's regionalised National Leagues, known last season as Courage leagues three and four. The three-year deal gives England's bigger amateur clubs a valuable financial lifeline and also provides funds for grass-roots rugby and training for referees.Reuse content