Tindall certain to miss Lions tour after latest setback

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Mike Tindall's Lions hopes have been all but dashed after the Bath man missed yesterday's training session in the build-up to the West Country club's crucial final Zurich Premiership match against Leeds.

Mike Tindall's Lions hopes have been all but dashed after the Bath man missed yesterday's training session in the build-up to the West Country club's crucial final Zurich Premiership match against Leeds.

Bath need to win against the relegation-threatened Yorkshire club if they are to gain automatic qualification into the Heineken Cup next season and it had been thought that England centre Tindall, who leaves the club to join West Country neighbours Gloucester at the end of the season, would be on the bench.

Bath's head coach, John Connolly, had said on Tuesday: "He is making excellent progress, and we will make a decision on his selection on Friday morning. We would like him to play, because it could be his last game at The Rec in Bath colours." And that was still the case first thing yesterday morning, but later in the day, when it became known that Tindall had not trained, Connolly dashed any lingering hopes the player might have had.

"Tindall's foot is not good enough," he said, "so I think probably he is still a few weeks away." Tindall had needed some kind of a run-out in order to convince the British and Irish Lions head coach, Sir Clive Woodward, that he was fit enough to take to New Zealand.

Now, with this latest setback, Tindall's domestic season seems to be over - even if Bath do extend their season by qualifying for the Zurich Championship play-offs - and, with the Lions departure date of 25 May looming, realistically his chances of making the trip have to be very slight.

Tindall's team-mate and international colleague Matt Stevens, who sees a specialist in London today for an examination of his injured right knee, is more optimistic that the damage is not as serious as had at first been feared.

Northampton have delayed naming their team for the vital relegation battle at Worcester, but co-coach Paul Grayson indicated that Shane Drahm, who quits the Saints at the end of the season to join Saturday's opponents at Sixways, will start. There had been speculation that Drahm might be on the bench, because he might be put on the spot by having to kick the goal that could save Saints and condemn his new club Worcester to the drop.

But Grayson said yesterday: "I have absolutely no doubt that given the pressure Shane has already been under these last few weeks, that he will be up to the job."

Chris Budgen and Brett Sturgess have signed new two-year deals with Saints.

Gloucester, who lose England scrum-half Andy Gomarsall to Worcester at the end of the season, yesterday signed Peter Richards, 27, from Wasps on a two-year contract.

Richards who has played for Bristol, Treviso, London Irish and Harlequins, has appeared in the centre for Wasps this season but says he wants to focus on establishing himself in the No 9 jersey at Kingsholm.

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