Henry gains clear run at Lions

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The Independent Online

British and Irish Lions and All Blacks teams to spend longer in preparation than the average moon- walking astronaut.





Sir Clive Woodward wants regular protective access to his British and Irish Lions in the weeks leading into next summer's tour of New Zealand; Graham Henry, the All Blacks coach, will spend at least a month with his team before the opening Test of the three-match rubber in Christchurch on 25 June. At this rate, the players will spend longer in quarantine than the average moon- walking astronaut.

Reports in New Zealand yesterday made clear that Henry, not quite as obsessed with preparation as his rival but closing in fast, could expect a clear four-week run with his élite personnel. Should none of the country's five Super 12 provinces make the final of the 2005 tournament, Henry will have five weeks instead.

The All Blacks are expected to play a trial match during that period, along with a warm-up international against one of the Pacific Islands teams or, quite possibly, a gathering of Samoans, Fijians and Tongans, similar to those who recently took on New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

The scrum-half Sililo Martens, one of the finest Tongan players of his generation, starts for unbeaten Sale against Saracens in tonight's Premiership match at Edgeley Road, ahead of the former Scotland captain, Bryan Redpath, who stays on the bench. Philippe Saint-André, the Sale coach, has rotated his front-row players, recalling Trevor Woodman, Sébastien Bruno and Barry Stewart to the run-on positions.

For Saracens, Kyran Bracken is back at scrum-half, while the wing Richard Haughton and the centre Ben Johnston replace Paul Bailey and Thomas Castaignède, both of whom are hamstrung.

Harlequins have completed the signing of Matt Henjak, the ACT Brumbies scrum-half who made his debut for the Wallabies against England last June, on a short-term contract.

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