Rugby union: Bath's Swift summer clear-out

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The Independent Online
BATH leaked more league points last season - a mortifying 455 - than in any campaign since the introduction of competitive rugby in 1987. Yesterday, they leaked a few players into the bargain as the management embarked on an asset-stripping exercise in preparation for a summer raid on the transfer market.

The Ireland A second row Brian Cusack, the Zimbabwean stand-off Kenny Tsimba and the former England Colts centre Joe Ewens headed the "surplus to requirements" list while four others, including the Argentinian lock German Llanes and the England Under-21 midfielder Jon Pritchard, were, according to the chief executive Tony swift, "discussing their futures". Earlier this week, Federico Mendez, the world-class Puma hooker, left both club and country after falling out with Andy Robinson and his coaching team.

Swift is fast closing in on Malcolm O'Kelly, the London Irish second row, and, rather more excitingly, Thomas Castaignede, the brilliant French stand-off. Castaignede's arrival from Castres would enable the European champions to give Mike Catt a new lease of life in the centre and play Matt Perry in his Test position of full-back.

Scotland, meanwhile, will make new caps of Matthew Proudfoot, the 20st Melrose prop, and Hugh Gilmour, the Heriot's right wing, when they take on a rejuvenated Fiji in Suva on Tuesday. Gregor Townsend, now of Brive, fills his optimum role of stand-off and there is a welcome return for Ian Jardine, the Stirling County centre, after a two-year struggle with groin problems.

Worryingly for the tourists, Waisale Serevi, the uncrowned king of rugby in the South Seas, is only on the bench. "The depth of Fijian rugby is much greater now than when I took over two years ago," said the national coach and former All Black, Brad Johnstone. "Once upon a time it was hard to find 15 players, but the hard work is beginning to pay off for us and we have the potential to give the Scots a run for their money."

One New Zealander who seems ready to resist overtures from overseas is Graham Henry, the highly rated Auckland coach currently being pursued by Wales. Along with Gordon Hunter, the All Blacks' assistant coach, Henry had been touted as one of the prime candidates to head up the Dragons' challenge for next year's World Cup, but he publicly distanced himself from the job yesterday.

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