Andrew Powell, the international No 8 sacked by Wasps after brawling with a group of football supporters in a Shepherd's Bush bar and finishing a distant second, has secured a two-year contract with Sale, who are rebuilding their squad after confirming the departure of 21 players earlier this week. The deal, finalised yesterday, gives the Welshman a second bite at a Premiership career that looked to have turned sour on him.
Warren Gatland, the Wales coach who brought Powell into the Test fold in 2008 before throwing him back out again following the 29-year-old forward's much-publicised motorway escapade in a golf buggy during last year's Six Nations, is unlikely to take the player to the World Cup in New Zealand this autumn. Sale can therefore expect full value for money in what is certain to be a difficult first season for the new team.
A powerful ball-carrier and a serious physical presence, Powell should prove a good fit at Edgeley Park. Steve Diamond, the club's executive director of sport, has been as busy as anyone on the recruitment front and many of his new signings – Kearnan Myall from Leeds, Richie Vernon from Glasgow, Tony Buckley from Munster, the Russian lock Andrei Ostrikov – are very substantial citizens. With the Welshman operating in the middle of the back row, they should be able to stand toe to toe with the biggest packs in the country.
Saracens, meanwhile, may be playing like kings – a 10-match winning streak in the Premiership has earned them a home semi-final against Gloucester on Sunday and made them a smart-money bet to bag the domestic title – but come next season, they will still be doing it in the sporting equivalent of a Salvation Army hostel. Plans to leave the ramshackle, semi-condemned Vicarage Road in Watford for a 10,000-capacity home of their own in nearby Barnet are not progressing nearly as quickly as the club would like, hence their admission yesterday that they might have to stay put for the whole of the 2011-2012 campaign.
"We'd like to be in a position to move at some point this year or early next," said Edward Griffiths, their chief executive, "but once you put in a planning application you're no longer in control of the process, and if circumstances dictate that we have to remain at Vicarage Road for longer than we originally thought, that's what we'll do. We have reached an agreement with the owners to that effect."
Worcester's heavy-duty pack laid the foundations for a 21-12 victory over Cornish Pirates in Penzance last night, and by taking a nine-point lead back to Sixways for next week's second leg of the Championship final, the Midlanders are short-priced favourites to return to the Premiership at the first attempt.
Miles Benjamin, very much a Premiership-class wing, settled the Worcester nerves with an early try, while the former England stand-off Andy Goode claimed a second on the half-hour. Goode added a conversion and three penalties as his forwards dominated at close quarters, denying the dangerous Pirates broken-field specialists the ammunition they required.
A dozen points adrift at the interval, the home side made a better fist of the second period through the free-running Rob Cook, Jonny Bentley and Phil Burgess, resourcefully marshalled by the scrum-half Gavin Cattle. They could not plot a route to the Worcester line, however, despite the sin-binning of the visitors' Irish international flanker Neil Best. Four penalties from Cook were all they had to show for their efforts.