Lamb joins exodus from Kingsholm

London Irish agree deal with 22-year-old who follows Barkley out of Gloucester
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The Independent Online

Gloucester's golden generation is fast becoming the lost generation. Ryan Lamb, a local boy made good who has spent the last year going to the bad, yesterday signed a two-year deal with Guinness Premiership finalists London Irish, thereby following a couple of other home-grown midfielders, Anthony Allen and Jack Adams, through the door – not to mention a fully fledged international centre in the shape of Olly Barkley, who lasted precisely a season before returning to Bath. No wonder the supporters are wondering if there is something rotten in the state of Kingsholm.

Still a few days shy of his 23rd birthday, Lamb is the most striking of London Irish's recent signings. "A couple of years ago, everyone was expecting him to be the next England No 10 and take Gloucester to the very top," said Toby Booth, the Exiles director of rugby. "But it seems he had no one to learn from at Kingsholm, and he struggled playing a pretty one-dimensional form of rugby. Here, he will have Mike Catt working with him, and he knows he'll have the chance to express himself. We're one of the market leaders when it comes to developing young talent – and he's a massive talent."

Even though Dean Ryan, the head coach at Kingsholm, has taken steps to shore up his dwindling midfield resources – Nicky Robinson, the Cardiff Blues outside-half, will be there next season, as will the Fijian centre Seru Rabeni, who is joining from Leicester – there remains a good deal of uncertainty about the place. Indeed, Ryan's own position is under discussion. Tom Walkinshaw, the chairman, is overseeing a thorough review of the entire Gloucester operation and has refused to be drawn on the future of the existing management regime.

Irish, meanwhile, are as happy as can be. This weekend's final with Leicester at Twickenham is no one's idea of a cakewalk, but Booth is confident that his side will cope with the "uncharted territory" challenge and give a decent account of themselves. He expects the captain, Bob Casey, and the hugely influential Samoan centre Seilala Mapusua to recover from injuries suffered during the comprehensive semi-final victory at Harlequins four days ago, and is even hoping for a surprise appearance from the international lock Nick Kennedy, who damaged knee ligaments in the same game. All three were under treatment in the same hyperbaric chamber at a London hospital yesterday.

Across the capital, there were increasing indications that Ian McGeechan's stint as director of rugby at Wasps could end as soon as next week. McGeechan, who will lead the British and Irish Lions on their forthcoming tour of South Africa, has presided over a poor season – if Northampton win the European Challenge Cup in nine days' time, Wasps will miss out on Heineken Cup qualification – and there has been a good deal of discontent at Adams Park over his Lions commitments. He has also been consistently linked with a position at London Scottish, who have well-financed ambitions to regain their place among the Premiership elite.

Tony Hanks, long associated with Wasps and lured back from his native New Zealand to bolster the coaching team last November, is an early favourite to run the show next season, possibly with help from the World Cup-winning England prop Trevor Woodman, who has made a name for himself as a forwards coach in Australia since retiring through injury in 2005. McGeechan, who has another year left on his contract, may be offered a consultancy role.

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