Japan's Iwabuchi signs for Saracens

Kensuke Iwabuchi yesterday became the first Japanese player to sign for an English club during the professional era when he joined Saracens in time for the new Premiership season.

Kensuke Iwabuchi yesterday became the first Japanese player to sign for an English club during the professional era when he joined Saracens in time for the new Premiership season.

Iwabuchi, known as Kenny, is a fly-half who can also play at full-back and has earned a reputation for electric pace and elusive running. He has 12 international caps and was in the squad for the last World Cup, although he did not play in any of their three games.

However, Iwabuchi displayed the full range of his talents when he played for Cambridge University in last season's varsity match at Twickenham, scoring a try but finishing on the losing side. The Saracens' coaching adviser, Francois Pienaar, said: "Kenny can disturb the best of defences with his running ability."

The 24-year-old Iwabuchi, who studied social and political sciences at university and was interested in going on to study at Harvard, is likely to be used as cover for Saracens' new Australian signing Duncan McRae.

Sale have confirmed the signing of the former Scotland captain Bryan Redpath from under the noses of their Premiership rivals Harlequins.

The 29-year-old Redpath, who has joined from the French club Narbonne, is not the club's only new acquisition. Sale have recruited two New Zealanders, the 23-year-old hooker Norm Rusk, who spent last season at Buccaneers in Ireland, and the second-row forward Scott Lines, 26, who is joining from Taranaki in his home country.

Sale's director of rugby, Adrian Hadley, said: "With the arrival this week of Canadian prop Jon Thiel, we are ready for the new season."

The top English clubs could pocket around £600,000 each over the next three seasons following yesterday's launch of Premier Rugby. The new commercial banner for all 12 Premiership clubs could generate a seven-figure sum in its first year and total more than £7m by 2003, it was announced yesterday.

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