Rugby union: Saracens sign up Penaud

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL LYNAGH was just about the finest outside-half in the world when he first agreed to spend his dotage at Saracens two years ago. Alain Penaud, his long-sought and much-hyped replacement, is not even the best stand- off in France at the moment, but his move from the fanatical rugby heartland of Brive to the mushrooming stronghold of Watford nevertheless suggests that the buoyant north Londoners will remain a power in the land.

Penaud, capped 30 times and a veteran of two memorable Heineken Cup finals, has agreed a three-year deal with Francois Peinaar's double-chasing outfit and will begin training with his new club-mates in July. "He plays a very physical game and has a fantastic left boot and while he does not kick goals for Brive, it is only because they do not give him the opportunity," Pienaar said. "It's something we'll address immediately. We see him as our goal-kicker next season."

Pienaar pronounced himself well satisfied with his club's latest acquisition and, given the South African's shrewd assessment of talent, it was no mean recommendation. Penaud may not be the most consistent play-making general in the game but when he hits a hot streak, extraordinary things tend to happen.

"He's one hell of a talent," smiled Saracens' director of rugby, Mark Evans, who scoured Europe before finally settling on his and Pienaar's original choice. "Just as importantly, he's our type of player. If you look at the big foreign signings we've made - Francois, Michael and Philippe Sella - you'll see they were all one-club men. Alain has been loyal to Brive for almost 12 years and that says a good deal about his character."

For Penaud, now, 28, the move amounts to "a new start, a second breath", and he has not ruled out a return to international rugby. "That is in the hands of the selectors - but the motivation is there," he said. "Especially as I have the chance to follow in the footsteps on Lynagh. That means a great deal to me."