Rugby Union: Northampton keep Townsend

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Gregor Townsend, wined and dined by Bath and Cardiff, yesterday decided to keep his feet under the table at Northampton.

Townsend has signed a new contract with the Saints which promises him the stand-off role ahead of Paul Grayson. There is also a unique rider: if things don't work out Townsend will be allowed to leave the club after Christmas. It could be described as the Santa clause.

"I'm very disappointed," Gareth Davies, the Cardiff chief executive, said. "Gregor is a playmaker who would have given us a lot of options. He's the type of player we don't have at the moment. The manner in which this was resolved should serve as a hard lesson for players and clubs alike."

Cardiff, who approached Townsend before he enhanced his reputation on the Lions tour to South Africa, had been confident of getting his signature before today's Heineken European Cup deadline.

Townsend, who is 24, last weekend visited Cardiff and then informed Northampton he would be moving to Wales. The Welsh Cup holders offered him a one-year contract, but more importantly a secure place at stand-off.

Both Cardiff and Townsendthought he was free to leave Northampton. However, the Midlands club said that Townsend had already received a sum of money for the new season in the form of a retainer.

n Martin Offiah, who is leaving Bedford, has been approached by a London First Division club. The 30-year-old, who has played league for the London Broncos, has promised the unnamed union club a decision by today.