RUGBY UNION: Bath sign Saracens flanker on a free

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND MAY have lost two from two on their difficult tour of the southern hemisphere, but that has not stopped a booming transfer market sprouting up around the squad. Ben Sturnham, the Saracens flanker who made his Test debut against Australia, will play for Bath next season while Josh Lewsey, the disaffected Bristol outside-half, is about to choose between Wasps and Sale.

Sturnham's one-year contract with the English knock-out champions expires at the end of the month, so his switch of loyalties will not cost Bath a penny in transfer fees. "It's been the hardest decision of my career to date," said the 24-year-old blind-side specialist. "I've been there since the age of 18 and I've made a lot of friends. But I need regular first-team opportunities if I'm to challenge for a World Cup place next year and with Richard Hill working his way back to fitness, I feared I might be on the sidelines once again."

Given that Saracens inflicted the double over Bath last season, Sturnham's decision might not seem a career move. "Yes, they had a poor domestic season by their standards," he agreed. "But they still finished the campaign as European champions. They'll always be a top side and I'm excited at the prospect of being a part of it all."

Bath have been on the hunt for back-row reinforcements since Dan Lyle, Richard Webster and Nathan Thomas, their Heineken Cup-winning unit, suffered simultaneous injuries during the spring. However, they have yet to locate an open-side specialist of Test calibre, the one glaring weakness in their forward pack.

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