Gloucester take another look at league with Pryce

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The Independent Online

Gloucester cannot be said to have derived full value from their previous dalliance with the rugby league community, thanks to the many frailties and foibles associated with the flawed genius known as Henry Paul. What is more, they are not obviously in need of another centre, given the rapid progress of Anthony Allen and the vast potential of Jack Adams, allied to the steady-as-she-goes qualities of Mike Tindall.

These facts have not stopped them homing in on Karl Pryce, however. The strapping 13-a-side centre from Bradford Bulls is confidently expected to confirm his move to Kingsholm over the next 48 hours, thereby following the road taken by Chev Walker of Leeds, who is on his way to Bath, and Stephen Myler of Salford, who has signed for Northampton. Given the looming prospect of Andy Farrell actually playing a Premiership match for Saracens, as opposed to thinking about playing one, there is plenty for rugby league to mourn in respect of the union game's seizure of its assets.

Kingsholm officials were silent on the subject of Pryce yesterday, but there were strong indications that he had already signed. Certainly, they saw it that way in Yorkshire. Peter Hood, the chairman of the Super League champions, said that the player had been less than forthcoming on his immediate plans, but added wistfully: "We believe he has signed for Gloucester, although no one has told us."

At 20, Pryce is hardly a bruised and battered league operative with one eye on a nice union pension. What is more, his physical dimensions - 6ft 6in and 18st 7lb - are Lomuesque, and if he fails to cut it as a back in his new sport he could relocate to the pack. Whatever the outcome of the next few days, his league registration will remain with Bradford, whose offer of a three-year contract remains on the table for the time being. He has repeatedly said that in league terms the Bulls are his first and only choice.

There was one definite piece of transfer news yesterday as Saracens completed the signing of Neil de Kock, the Western Province scrum-half who has 10 Springbok caps to his name.

The 28-year-old from Cape Town is expected to surface in England next week and will compete strongly against the Watford-based club's other front-line No 9 players, Alan Dickens and Moses Rauluni, for an early Premiership call-up.

"Neil is a player we've been interested in for some time," said Alan Gaffney, the director of rugby at Vicarage Road, who lost the long-serving Kyran Bracken to retirement last season. "He's a very talented ball player with a good pass - someone who is sound at the base of the scrum and plays with a lot of direction. We now have strength in depth in the position."

The London Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson has been cited for an alleged dangerous tackle on the Wasps wing Paul Sackey during last Friday night's encounter at Adams Park, and will appear before a disciplinary tribunal on Tuesday. Ironically enough, Hodgson had been the victim of an illegal challenge from the Harlequins centre Stuart Abbott six days previously - which earned Abbott a three-week ban.

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