Rugby Union: Rowell tipped to lead Bristol revival

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JACK ROWELL, a very superior brand of redundant rugby coach, emerged yesterday as the clear favourite to oversee Bristol's transition from receivership to recovery. Whether the former England manager will have any raw materials with which to rebuild is a moot point, however; two of the once-great West Country club's best young players, Kevin Maggs and Michael Worsley, have elected to jump ship rather than accept swingeing cuts in pay.

Maggs, the Irish international centre who played the game of his life against South Africa in Bloemfontein two months ago, agreed terms with Rowell's old colleagues at Bath while Worsley, a loose-head prop of considerable talent, decided to continue his education in the front row nursery of Gloucester. With David Corkery, another Irish Test regular, already back home in Munster and question marks hanging over the futures of Robert Jones and Jim Brownrigg, Bristol's human assets look to be going the same way as their financial ones.

Nick de Scossa, once a useful second-row forward with the local Old Redcliffians club and now the public face of a big-money consortium poised to announce a formal takeover tomorrow, met the remaining players yesterday to inform them that magic wands would not be a feature of the rescue package. "You can't go on underwriting million pound losses year after year, no matter how rich you are," he said, confirming that reduced salaries and semi- professional contracts were part of the new five-year business plan.

Suggestions that Bob Dwyer, the 1991 World Cup-winning Australian coach, sacked from his post at Leicester last February, was also in the frame for the directorship of rugby at the Memorial Ground appeared to be ruled out of court by the man himself. "I was asked by Jeff Lewis, the former chief executive of the club, if I might be interested in taking a look at Bristol, but that's as far as it's gone," he said. Lewis is not involved in the takeover consortium.

However, De Scossa insisted that two former international coaches were under consideration for the top job, confirming Rowell's candidacy and refusing to rule Dwyer out of the equation. "Jack obviously has a head start because he lives in this part of the world," he said. "We need a name, someone who is a winner. We don't want to be here in a year's time, wondering how we've let another million slip away."

Meanwhile Brian Baister, chairman of the Rugby Football Union's management board, and Glanmor Griffiths, his Welsh counterpart, were meeting at Twickenham yesterday to discuss the potential for a British league that would provide a solution to the in-fighting that has bedevilled rugby in these islands since the onset of professionalism.

"Time is the enemy," admitted Griffiths, acutely aware that the new season is less than four weeks away, "but there does seem to be a refreshing willingness to make progress."

Allan Hosie, an executive member of the International Rugby Board and chairman of the Five Nations Committee, said all interested parties would investigate the possibilities over the next 72 hours.