If Saracens are indeed on the trail of Taine Randell, the former All Black captain, they are being careful not to leave too much of a scent in their pursuit. Having failed in their bid for Heineken Cup action next year, the Watford-based club have identified the need to strengthen their pack for the next instalment of the Zurich Premiership and Parker Pen Shield.
The French hooker and captain Raphael Ibañez became the first close-season signing. Attention has turned to recruiting a tight-head prop and a loose forward-cum-specialist No 8, according to a club source. Whether or not that results in Randell swapping hemispheres has been the subject of much discussion.
The debate regarding Randell's movements was fuelled last week when the Otago Highlanders coach, Greg Cooper, announced that his captain was "unavailable at this stage", and thus his name was missing from those inked down for the NPC championship that begins in August.
Recently the 28-year-old Randell, capped 51 times for his country but currently out of John Mitchell's plans, said it was "a possibility" that he had played his last match for Otago, adding, "I'm in no rush to make a decision". Which appears to be the mood at Vicarage Road. However, the source admitted the rough-and-ready Kiwi was "the type of player who we are looking at. We need a hard man, not to say they don't exist here, but they seem to grow up a little differently in the southern hemisphere".
While the talk is of Randell swapping one black-jerseyed career for another, there is a possibility that countryman Wayne Shelford's days as head coach are nearing the end. "We are in discussions with him at the moment, nothing is finalised either way," the source said.
Saracens' chief executive, Mark Sinderberry, was in Dublin on Friday to eye the talent on offer in the Under-21 World Cup match between England and Australia. Sinderberry, an Australian, watch-ed the young Wallabies win 52-22 on a night South Africa U-21s beat Ireland U-21s 37-29.
The senior Ireland squad continued their tour of the southern hemisphere by fielding a reserve-strength side and beating Tonga 40-19 in Nuku'Alofa. Ireland scored six tries to two but had an early alarm when they trailed 11-0. Once they settled their nerves, however, the visitors took control of the game, Guy Easterby and John Kelly each crossing twice and Mark McHugh and Jonathan Bell picking up one apiece. Ronan O'Gara slotted two conversions and two penalties.
Beaten by Australia in their first match, Ireland complete their short tour with a Test against Samoa next week.