Rugby Union: Bath's No 1 target is Woodward

Bath, the Courage league champions, are not letting the grass grow under their feet as they seek to replace Brian Ashton, the respected coach who quit the Recreation Ground earlier this month, writes Chris Hewett.

Clive Woodward, who resigned his post at London Irish shortly before Christmas, is their top target. Woodward, capped 21 times by England in the early 1980s and a Lion in both 1980 and 1983, watched the West Countrymen put 50 points past Northampton on Sunday and had talks with senior club officials. Bath sources were hopeful of his agreeing terms this week.

If Woodward, who has thriving business interests, decided to commit himself to what would certainly be a high-pressure role, he would strengthen his ties with Andy Robinson, the Bath flanker who took over as chief coach following Ashton's departure. The two men worked together with the England Under-21 side last season and are still heavily involved in the national set-up.

Jonah Lomu is returning to England next month in an Auckland Blues squad chosen for a small tour of Europe as part of their preparations for the defence of their Super-12 title.

The All Black captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, the stand-off sensation Carlos Spencer, Fijian flier Joeli Vidiri and Test No 8 Zinzan Brooke are also on the tour, which starts against Bristol to mark the opening of the new West Stand at the Memorial Ground on 13 February (kick-off 7.30pm).

The Blues will also play Harlequins (18 February) and Toulouse (23). The touring side will comprise 13 All Blacks, three former Test players and Fijian and Western Samoan internationals.

AUCKLAND BLUES SQUAD: A Cashmore, J Vidiri, J Lomu, B Lima, E Clarke, L Stensness, C Spencer, G Laupepe, T Marsh, M Scott, J Tonu'u, O Brown, P Thompson, C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick, M Jones, A Blowers, M Carter, D Mika, Z Brooke, R Brooke, R Fromont, C Richelmann, L Lafaiali'i, A Roose.

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