Saints sign Argentina international Cortese as cover hooker

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The Independent Online

Northampton have signed the Argentina international hooker Matias Cortese on a two-year deal. Cortese, 20, made his Test debut for the Pumas last December and has played at successive Under-21 World Cups.

Saints' director of rugby, Budge Pountney, said: "We decided we needed extra cover in the hooker position as Steve Thompson and Dylan Hartley may be called up to the England and under-21 sides during the Six Nations period. Dylan is also currently recovering from a back injury."

Cortese, who played against Hartley at last year's Under-21 World Cup, qualifies as an EU player through an Italian passport.

Leeds have agreed long-term deals with winger Tom Biggs and centre Rob Vickerman. Biggs, who was close to being selected for the England Saxons this summer, is committed to the Tykes until 2009 after signing a three-year contract.

Vickerman has penned a two-year deal with Leeds and their director of rugby, Stuart Lancaster, said: "I'm delighted that Tom and Rob have committed their long-term future to the club. They both want to help return us to the Premiership.

"Both of them were approached by Premiership clubs in the close season but want to be part of the club going forward. Tom has consistently scored tries since coming into the first-team squad two seasons ago and Rob was developing well before his injury last season."

Lancaster has made 11 signings so far this summer and promises three more before the week is out.

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