Ruck and Maul: Nine missing but Saracens can still scent the semi-finals

While Saracens director Francois Pienaar chuckles at Matt Damon's prosthetically enhanced (the nose, that is) portrayal of him in 'Invictus', the South African-backed club are missing nine England players for their LV Cup tie against Newport-Gwent Dragons this afternoon. This is the end of the pool stage, and yesterday's results leave Gloucester, Saracens and Harlequins with a chance of joining Northampton in the last four in March. Quins and Gloucester could stop the Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets going through.

Double French

South Africa has not always been noted for canny administrators but a smart move by SA Rugby will earn a global audience this summer. It had been forbidden to play a different sport in the same city as a football World Cup venue while Fifa's event is taking place but special dispensation has been granted to the Boks to host France in Cape Town on 12 June. Fortunately, France's soccer side are up against Uruguay in the city the day before. Sacre bleu, squared.

Cohen on Rebels' list

The linking of Danny Cipriani with the Melbourne Rebels team entering the expanded Super 15 in 2011 is handy publicity for this year's competition which kicks off on Friday. If it happens, Cipriani (and, presumably, girlfriend Kelly Brook) would be off to lovely but faraway Melbourne for eight months from October with a break for Christmas. The Aussie scouts have been making tentative contact with agents and talking of two-year deals for northern hemisphere players considered unlikely to feature in the 2011 World Cup. In addition to the reported Cipriani, Ben Kay and Nick Abendanon, Ruck and Maul can reveal Sale wing Ben Cohen and Gloucester No 8 Gareth Delve are on the Rebels' short-list.

McBryde and prejudice

More top vox-popping from a Welsh newspaper. Having breathlessly brought you Jamie Roberts being declared "officially the sexiest man in Wales" by the 'Western Mail', we hear now that the national side's forwards coach Robin McBryde is the second-greatest North Walian, er, ever, according to the 'Daily Post'. Only the warrior prince Owain Glyndwr knocked McBryde into second spot, with cuddly crooner Bryn Terfel (second in the "sexiest man" stakes) in third and Motörhead's Lemmy – he was brought up in Anglesey – in fifth. McBryde was reported to be "quite astounded" but probably not as astounded as anyone who voted for David Lloyd George, raised in North Wales and the only Welshman to be Prime Minister. No wonder politicians say "never trust the polls".

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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