Rugby Union: Foreign feast at the Stoop

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The Independent Online
The England selectors are expected to give Harlequins' Pilkington Cup quarter-final against Saracens a miss today. The contest provides yet another example of the growing influence of non-English players on major clubs, with both teams fielding eight men not qualified for the white shirt.

Dick Best, the Harlequins rugby director, said: "My club was the first to be targeted by the critics for employing players from other nations. But Saracens have caught up and Newcastle, Richmond and Northampton have their share."

If the conditions allow, Best is certain that the players on show will live up to their star billing. "We are near a second sell-out in six days at The Stoop and that is good for our club," he said.

Should a muddy Stoop dictate keeping play tight, there is the prospect of a kicking contest between the Australian Michael Lynagh and France's Thierry Lacroix - an attractive sideshow. Saracens coach, Mark Evans, admitted: "I would have no problems if the kickers decided the game with the accuracy of their boots, provided it reflected the trend of the match."

Saracens beat Harlequins in the league last month and knocked Wasps out of the cup, so will have a fair claim to be the capital's best if they reach the semi-finals for the first time for 20 years.

l Saracens are keen to find their new mascot Sarrie the Saracen, a colourful chainmail costume based on the Arab enemies of Middle Age crusaders, which has disappeared since its launch in November. The club wants to trace creator Barry Killerby, who also designed Mr Blobby.

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