Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Rugby Union: Saracens set to sign Penaud

SARACENS are expected to announce tomorrow that they will fill the huge hole to be left by Michael Lynagh with Alain Penaud, the Brive outside-half.

The 28-year-old with 29 French caps, has played in two Heineken Cup finals for Brive but is currently out of the French squad. He will have a hard act in replacing Lynagh, the world record points scorer, who has said he will retire after the Tetley's Bitter Cup final in May.

Speculation that the Watford-based club would be signing Neil Jenkins, the Welsh points machine whose record almost matches Lynagh's, now looks wide of the mark. Saracens will also want to replace Philippe Sella in the centre and will be seeking a goalkicker to augment Penaud's skills with the boot.

There was ominous news for Wales yesterday in the run-up to their Five Nations game against France at Wembley on Sunday when their captain, Robert Howley, took no part in training.

The talismanic scrum-half suffered an ankle injury playing for Cardiff against Pontypridd on Saturday and was joined on the sidelines by his Cardiff team-mate David Young. But the Welsh coach, Kevin Bowring, is quietly confident that both players - the prop Young has a calf muscle problem - will play a part during today's work-out.

The centre Allan Bateman missed the session for personal reasons and Bowring received encouraging news about the full-back, Kevin Morgan. The 21-year-old showed no obvious signs of a shoulder injury - one that the Pontypridd coach, Dennis John, fears could be aggravated by playing next Sunday - and looks likely to start.

"Kevin has been the biggest fitness worry," said a Welsh Rugby Union spokesman, Lyn Davies. "But he took part in back division training this morning and then most of the general afternoon practice."

The Wales A management have not been as fortunate as their senior colleagues and have been forced into making changes for Friday night's international against France A at Bridgend. The Pontypridd flanker Martyn Williams is out because of a pulled calf muscle - Neath's Ian Boobyer replaces him - while Swansea's Dean Thomas and the Cardiff reserve hooker Paul Young join the replacements, the latter taking over from Barry Williams, who has a hand injury.

Alan Tait has picked up the Famous Grouse Scotland Player of the Five Nations award ahead of his Newcastle teammate Gary Armstrong. Andy Roxburgh, the flanker, was voted third.