Rugby Union: Best reveals six new players

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The Independent Online
THE FINAL pieces of Dick Best's playing jigsaw - so he hopes - dropped into place at London Irish yesterday. And no sooner had Steve Bachop, Kevin Putt, Ryan Strudwick, Jarrod Cunningham, Neal Hatley and Matthew Bird been unveiled in south-west London than five of them found themselves on Saturday's team-sheet for the Allied Dunbar Premiership game with Sale.

Bachop, a former All Black and Western Samoan stand-off, and scrum-half Putt, a New Zealander who blossomed in South Africa playing for Natal, go straight into the side. Three others are on the bench: Cunningham, Hatley and Strudwick.

Cunningham, who has played full-back for Auckland Blues and Wellington Hurricanes in the Super 12 competition, has the hardest-looking job, displacing the inspirational London Irish captain, Conor O'Shea.

Putt had other considerations besides money. His daughter, Shauna, has a rare metabolic illness that was not diagnosed in South Africa until she was two - in this country it is routinely tested for when a baby is five days old. By then much damage had been done and the child could not walk or talk.

But once it was established that she had the disease, her diet was adjusted accordingly and Putt and his wife, Louise, are confident that with help from London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, Shauna will improve.

"Within two weeks of being on the diet she was walking," said Putt, who said that the disorder means Shauna is unable to metabolise proteins that she needs for normal development.

They will not know for some time just how severely affected (if at all) Shauna will be. Putt, who sat on the Springbok bench eight times without playing, explained: "With Shauna we are really on damage control at the moment."