Rugby Union: Leicester's Johnson is player of season

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MARTIN JOHNSON, captain of the Allied Dunbar Premiership champions Leicester, has been named player of the season. "Leicester recovered perfectly from a bad year," he said. "We were a true team, and that enabled us to come through so many important narrow wins."

Jonny Wilkinson can look forward to a prolonged future in English rugby after being named young player of the season. Conor O'Shea was nominated the sponsors' players' player of the season, and Northampton's Ian McGeechan was named coach of the year. Bedford and Scotland's Scott Murray was international (non-English) player of the season.

Wakefield had fewest white or red cards of any the 28 Premiership One or Two clubs and won the fair play award, while Rotherham's John Dudley was named Premiership Two player of the season.

On Tuesday night, in a separate award, the Leicester and England back- row forward Neil Back was named as the inaugural players' player of the year.

n Northampton, the Premiership runners-up, are expected to announce today that they have signed the Wales and Lions centre Allan Bateman from Richmond. Saints are holding a news conference to announce their latest signing, but would give no other details.