Rugby Union: Vultures gather over the Memorial Ground

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The Independent Online
Bristol's unlikely Courage League victory over cup semi-finalists Sale on Saturday was achieved in the absence of their England forwards Simon Shaw and Mark Regan. Sadly for the struggling West Countrymen, they may have to get used to life without their quota of star quality; Harlequins, Bath and Wasps, richer and more glamourous and keen to keep it that way, are hovering like vultures over the Memorial Ground pickings.

Harlequins are expected to make a formal bid for Shaw before the week is out - the England second row was scheduled to discuss his future with David Tyler, the Bristol chief executive, yesterday - and they may try for a quick close on the deal by offering Glyn Llewellyn, the former Welsh international lock, in part-exchange. Bath have also asked Bristol for permission to speak to Shaw, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

Both Bath and Wasps, the league leaders, have signalled an interest in Regan, who has a year of his contract to run. Alan Davies, the Bristol coach, slapped a pounds 500,000 price tag on his hooker's head at the weekend - two-thirds of Bristol's entire wage bill - and any offer of that magnitude would be next to impossible to resist.

Sadly for the French club Brive, Christophe Lamaison's inability to resist an off-the-ball shoulder-charge on Scotland's Craig Chalmers during the Five Nations match in Paris 11 days ago has cost the European champions the services of their outstanding goalkicker for the next month. Lamaison, whose marksmanship did so much to earn his country an unexpected Grand Slam, was yesterday suspended for 30 days by a Five Nations disciplinary panel.

Lamaison declined to attend the hearing. His case was pleaded by Jean- Claude Skrela, the French coach, and Guy Laporte, vice-president of the French Rugby Federation, but their arguments failed to sway the match commissioner, Peter Boyle, who announced his decision after considering video as well as oral evidence from both sides.

Gloucester are in talks with Wasps over a possible move to Sudbury for their talented young hooker, Phil Greening. The 21-year-old, who has won two caps as an England replacement, will delay any decision until later in the summer after whichever tour - the Lions to South Africa, or England to Argentina - he goes on.