Melville in the mix for Saracens' successor to Diamond

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The Independent Online

Saracens' search for a new director of rugby gets under way later this week when they interview the first of the applicants for the post.

A number of names have been thrown around including the former Italy coach John Kirwan, but the club have made it clear they are looking for someone with specific experience of Northern Hemisphere rugby, which may rule out the former All Black winger.

Other names in the hat include the former Wales head coach Mike Ruddock, or Nigel Melville, the former Gloucester director of rugby. Whoever succeeds Steve Diamond will face the job of dragging Saracens back towards mid-table respectability. He will have the help of the captain Hugh Vyvyan, who signed a three-year contract extension yesterday.

Sale are confident that Charlie Hodgson will be fit for the Premiership match against London Irish at Reading's Madejski Stadium on Saturday. Hodgson, who injured his right hamstring against France the week before, said: "It was a strain, but thankfully it has not proved serious."

Hodgson refused to be drawn in the debate about the England coaching set-up. "It makes no difference to me who is coach as long as I am picked. It's not my position to talk about which coaches should be there."

The war of words between Rob Andrew and the Rugby Football Union continued yesterday with Twickenham responding to a charge by the Newcastle director of rugby that the junior levels of the game are a waste, and that youngsters would benefit more from a club environment.

Chris Spice, the RFU's performance director, said: "The Guinness Premiership is a fantastic environment to develop players, but it does not replicate the intensity of, or preparation for, a Test match. Age group, as well as 'A' team and Sevens, representative rugby is beneficial to player development because it poses a different challenge to the daily routine of club rugby and mirrors what happens at senior level."

Leicester have signed Worcester's Ireland A hooker Gavin Hickie on a two-year deal. The 25-year-old Dubliner will join Ireland internationals Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings at Welford Road.

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