Bath recruits lead league of changing faces

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The Independent Online

New season, new players ... dozens of them. Those legions of Leicester supporters who happily sardine their way into Welford Road once a fortnight will be as confused as anyone when their muddied heroes take on London Irish this afternoon, and not just because there are no trophies above the clubhouse bar. If they are unlikely to fathom a back row with Dan Lyle in the middle of it - the American jumped ship from Bath earlier this week - they will be utterly bewildered by a tight five shorn of Dorian West, Darren Garforth, Martin Johnson and Ben Kay. The Tigers, they are a'changin'.

Talking of Bath, the personnel turnover at the Recreation Ground has been even more dramatic. No fewer than eight players - Lee Best, Brendon Daniel, Martyn Wood, David Flatman, Duncan Bell, Rob Fidler, Michael Lipman and Isaac Fea'unati - will make their Premiership debuts for the club at Leeds tomorrow, with half a benchfull of equally unfamiliar replacements on the touch-line. Ironically, the process was started by Jon Callard during the final year of his coaching spell at Bath. Now assistant coach at Headingley, this self-same Callard will be clapping his hands with glee if the new formation fails to gel immediately.

Rotherham, promoted last season for the second time in three attempts, are necessarily fresh-faced and eager. They have Anthony Elliott and Peter Jorgensen, recruited from Sale and Northampton respectively, in their three-quarter line, and Jason Strange, the former Newport goal-kicker, at outside-half. Another Welshman, the highly-sophisticated Geraint Lewis, is also on debut duty at No 8. Unfortunately for those who crave an opening-day upset, the Yorkshiremen are visiting Kingsholm.

Gloucester themselves are not as recognisable as all that, with three graduates from their academy set-up - Rory Teague, Jon Goodridge and Brad Davies - turning out in the back division alongside their illustrious predecessor, Marcel Garvey. But the Cherry and White pack looks suitably formidable, particularly in the second row, and should generate enough grunt to deal with the upstarts.

"It's a stand-out day for the club and with so many debutants in our side, it will be an unforgettable match," said Chris Johnson, the Rotherham captain. The trouble with Kingsholm, is that visitors tend to find matches unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

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