Leeds yesterday confirmed they have signed the New Zealand scrum-half Justin Marshall - a deal that could well prove to be the signing of the 21st century, thus far.
The total package - car, house, air fares and other incidentals - is thought to be worth in excess of £300,000 over two years, but Leeds will be getting good value. Marshall, who captained the Barbarians against the All Blacks at Twickenham last autumn when the move was thrashed out, has left a trail of records in his wake.
He is the most capped New Zealand back, with 77, and the third most capped player for New Zealand behind Sean Fitzpatrick (92) and Ian Jones (79). During his career, which he hopes to wrap up by playing against the British and Irish Lions in the summer, he has so far scored 24 international tries - more than double the next man's total, Sid Going with 10.
Phil Davies, the Leeds director of rugby, said: "Justin is a world class player, who will add greatly to the group of players already assembled with his professionalism both on and off the field."
Marshall, who made his New Zealand debut in 1995, said: "Leeds will present new challenges. It's exciting to have the opportunity to set new goals, and compete in a different competition."
He captained New Zealand in the 1997 tour of Britain and was part of the team which won the Tri-Nations in 1999, 2000 and 2003. He will join Leeds for the start of next season from Super 12 side Canterbury Crusaders, where he has won an unprecedented four Super 12 titles, in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002.
From Marshall to Luke Sherriff, who takes over the captaincy of Harlequins for their Heineken Cup Pool Four match in Castres tomorrow because Andre Vos is being rested.
Sherriff appears in a completely revamped back row which also features Ma'ama Molitika and Kai Horstman. Andy Dunne starts ahead of Jeremy Staunton at fly-half and Ace Tiatia starts at hooker.
Quins' final match in the pool against Munster at Twickenham the following week has already set a record attendance. The 24,000 tickets sold have passed the previous best of 23,463, set when Leinster played host to Cardiff last season at Lansdowne Road.
Leicester have named Austin Healey on the wing for their Pool One match at home to Biarritz on Sunday. Healey, the former England wing, last appeared for the Tigers in the same competition against Wasps last month.
Tigers have two Grand Slam-winning forwards, Graham Rowntree and Ben Kay, on the bench, with Darren Morris and Louis Deacon being preferred.
Gloucester travel to Belfast to tackle Ulster at Ravenhill tonight with Simon Amor named at outside-half and Henry Paul at inside centre. There is no Mefin Davies because he was not registered for this stage of the competition, so James Parkes starts at hooker.Reuse content