Rugby Union: Sarries lie in wait for their old rivals: Pilkington Cup favourites kept apart as Welsh giant-killers draw Neath

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HAVING drawn most of the First Division against each other in the fifth round, Ian Beer did the decent thing at yesterday's Pilkington Cup quarter-final draw at Twickenham by keeping the three favourites - Bath, Harlequins and the holders, Leicester - apart on 26 February.

This, anyway, is how the sponsors could be forgiven for seeing it, though they could hardly say the Rugby Football Union president had contributed to the magic of the cup by sending Sale of the Second Division to The Stoop and Moseley, also of the Second, to Welford Road.

The Second Division's third representatives, Saracens, were luckier in being drawn at home, even if any side paired with Bath might imagine their luck had run out. As it happens, Sarries gave the league champions inordinate trouble at Southgate when they were still in the First Division last season and actually prevented Bath from winning the title in 1990 by beating them.

But if Bath know from experience that the conclusion of their visit to northernmost London is anything but forgone, Harlequins and Leicester could be excused feeling the utmost confidence.

With four from the First Division - Bristol, London Irish, Newcastle Gosforth and Northampton - following Wasps out of the cup last Saturday, the supposed elite of English club rugby is not well-represented in the last eight. Gloucester and Orrell will come together in the only all-First affair this time, and when we get to the semi-finals the lesser lights will almost certainly have gone out altogether.

In Wales, Ystradgynlais's reward for the giant-killing of Newport in the Swalec Cup is the dubious privilege of a last-16 visit from the championship contenders Neath. Llanelli, the holders, are favoured by a home draw against Llandovery. Pontypridd, Welsh rugby's form team, meet the Welsh league leaders Swansea for the first time in the cup.

PILKINGTON CUP Quarter-finals: Saracens v Bath; Gloucester v Orrell; Leicester v Moseley; Harlequins v Sale. (Ties to be played 26 February).

SWALEC CUP Sixth round: Cardiff v Bridgend; Maesteg v Bonymaen; Tenby United v Narberth; Ystradgynlais v Neath; Pontypridd v Swansea; Llanelli v Llandovery; Maesteg Celtic v South Wales Police; Dunvant v Newbridge. (Ties to be played 26 February).

PILKINGTON SHIELD Quarter-finals: North & Midlands: Keswick v Kidderminster Carolians; Edwardian v Malvern. London & South-West: Hucclecote OB v Old Public Oaks; Old Caterhamians v Old Hamptonians. (Ties to be played 26 February).