Sale exodus overshadows preparations for final

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The Independent Online

Sale have named a 25-man squad for this weekend's Powergen Cup final with Newcastle at Twickenham, a fifth of whom will be playing elsewhere next season.

Sale have named a 25-man squad for this weekend's Powergen Cup final with Newcastle at Twickenham, a fifth of whom will be playing elsewhere next season.

Four forwards - the prop Kevin Yates, the hooker Matt Cairns, the lock Iain Fullarton and the flanker Alex Sanderson - are moving to Saracens, and it emerged yesterday that Nick Walshe, a versatile sort with top-flight experience in both half-back positions, had agreed terms with Bath.

The West Country club, challenging for honours on domestic and European fronts, have been interested in Walshe for some time. While officials were reluctant to confirm the deal ahead of the cup final, they see the 30-year-old as a significant addition to the Recreation Ground mix. Walshe has played Premiership rugby for Saracens and Harlequins, as well as Sale.

Jim Mallinder, who recently committed himself to another three years as Sale's head coach, will wait until Saturday morning before finalising his starting line-up. He must make major calls at scrum-half, where Walshe is challenging Richard Wigglesworth for the No 9 shirt, and hooker, where Andy Titterrell and Cairns have been squabbling for preferment all season.

Mallinder must also decide where to play one of his key forwards, Jason White, who prefers the blind-side flanker's role but is every bit as effective as a heavy-scrummaging lock.

Meanwhile, Worcester must plan for their first season in the Premiership without the influential services of their former Springbok scrum-half, Werner Swanepoel, who is suffering from viral meningitis and has been advised to take a lengthy break.

Swanepoel, who last played at International level in 2000, will spend the next few months recuperating in South Africa, but has not ruled out a return to Sixways next year.

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