Spencer available for Maori date with Lions

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The Independent Online

Northampton's latest signing, the All Black fly-half Carlos Spencer, is poised to play against the British and Irish Lions when the tourists take on New Zealand Maori in Hamilton on 11 June.

Northampton's latest signing, the All Black fly-half Carlos Spencer, is poised to play against the British and Irish Lions when the tourists take on New Zealand Maori in Hamilton on 11 June.

It had been thought by agreeing to turn out for his friend Jonah Lomu in Martin Johnson's Testimonial match at Twickenham on 4 June, that Spencer had ruled himself out of selection for the Lions date the following weekend, because he would not be able to turn out for the Maori in the match against Fiji in Suva on 3 June.

But the Maori coach, Matt Te Pou, said yesterday: "I realise that there has been a degree of speculation regarding his departure to play club rugby in England but we all know now of his wishes to support his close friend and mate Jonah. Carlos also has great respect for the Maori jersey and has worn it with distinction, so we are naturally rapt that he will be available."

The trickle of departures from relegated Harlequins is beginning to turn into a flood. The fly-half Andy Dunne was yesterday confirmed as having joined Bath in a two-year deal.

Then came the news that the assistant coach Paul Turner had signed a two-year contract as coach of Newport-Gwent Dragons - their fourth such appointment in the two years of regional rugby.

Turner was swiftly followed into the principality by Dafydd James, the former Wales international threequarter, who joined Llanelli Scarlets on a two-year deal.

That is not the end of it for Quins either, because the Ireland full-back Gavin Duffy is reported to be out of contract, so would be a legitimate target for clubs, especially if he wants to stay in the Premiership. Then there is the lingering possibility of the wingers Ugo Monye and George Harder moving on. Bath, again, have made no secret of the fact that they would be interested in either or both.

The West Country club are expected to sign Mike Stephenson from Newcastle within the next week or 10 days. Stephenson is presently recovering from a broken leg, suffered last month at Northampton, but Bath are keen to get the speedy Falcons wing/fullback on to their books.

Leicester have signed Alejandro Moreno, the Argentina-born prop, from the French club Brive. The 33-year-old Moreno, who was capped three times by the Pumas before switching allegiance to Italy, can play on either side of the front row as well as at hooker.

Scotland have appointed Jon Petrie as captain for their summer matches against the Barbarians and Romania. Petrie, 26, who plays in the back row, becomes the 106th captain of Scotland.

England's top referee Chris White, 41, becomes only the second referee after Ireland's David McHugh, to take charge of two Heineken Cup finals when he officiates in the match between Stade Français and Toulouse at Murrayfield on 22 May. Coincidentally, his first final appearance was another all-French affair between Toulouse and Perpignan in Dublin in 2003.

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