Friday 04 September 1998 23:02


European Champions they may be, but this season they will have to concentrate on the domestic League and Cup because English clubs turned their back on Europe. Dan Lyle was missed for the latter half of last season, and the addition of former All Black Jon Preston, the utility halfback, should prove incisive.

Head coach: Andy Robinson

Captain: Richard Webster

Last season: 3rd

In: Kevin Maggs (Bristol), Steve Borthwick (Preston Grasshoppers), Jon Preston (Wellington, NZ), Jim Fallon (Richmond), Gareth Cooper (Pencoed), Ben Sturnham (Saracens).

Out: Ricky Pellow (Exeter), James Lofthouse (Worcester), Kenny Tsimba (Zimbabwe), Frederico Mendez (Northampton), German Llanes (released, Argentina), Gary French (London Welsh), Charlie Harrison, Joe Ewens (both Bedford), Benoit Durand (released, France), Simon Johnson (Munster), Brian Cusack (Richmond).


A clutch of exciting new signings, including the ex-Bath man Joe Ewens, a centre who should beef up the backs. No Mike Rayer - Mr Reliable with the boot - at full-back though, following his courtroom victory to gain his release and enable him to return to Wales. A cracking back row featuring the explosive Junior Paramore.

Director of Rugby: Geoff Cooke

Coach: Paul Turner

Captain: Rudi Straeuli (tbc)

Last season: Promoted as Division II champions

In: Virgil Hartland, Danny Zaltzman (both Coventry), Charlie Harrison, Joe Ewens (both Bath), Rob Ashforth, Richard Elliott (both Camb Univ), Andy Duke (Newbury), Darragh O'Mahoney, James Cockle (both Moseley), Michael Mainwaring (Currie).

Out: Mike Rayer (Cardiff), Aadel Kardooni (Blackheath), Justin Cullen (released, NZ), Dave Hinkins (Bristol), Sean Platford (released, S Africa), Richard Stone (West Hartlepool), Richard Kirke (London Irish).


One of the shrewdest signings of the summer could turn out to be former All Black Simon Mannix from Sale, but he will be in contention for the stand-off spot with English-qualified Mark Mapletoft. The lock Rob Fidler will have the added confidence of England caps while Phil Vickery is another member of an aggressive young pack.

Director of Rugby: Richard Hill

Captain: Dave Sims

Last season: 6th

In: Simon Mannix (Sale).

Out: Craig Emmerson (Leeds), Rafael Saint-Andre, Andrew Gibbs (both Romans, France), Alex Morris (Melrose), Martin Roberts (Moseley).


When you have rugby's equivalent of Superman as your coach, captain and No 8, as have Quins with the All Black legend Zinzan Brooke, it has to be said that you have a distinct advantage. With players of the calibre of Thierry Lacroix and John Schuster to use the possession, Harlequins are likely to be serious contenders for honours.

Director of Rugby: John Gallagher

Coach: Zinzan Brooke

Captain: Zinzan Brooke

Last season: 10th

In: John Gallagher, John Schuster, Colin Ridgeway (all Blackheath), Zinzan Brooke (Auckland, NZ), Garrick Morgan (Queensland, Australia), Tom Murphy (Cambridge Univ), Vaughan Going (Valley, Hong Kong), David Officer (Heriot's FP), Garry Halpin (London Irish), David Barnes (Newcastle).

Out: Will Carling (retired), Laurent Cabannes (Richmond), Gareth Allison (Castres), Spencer Bromley, Laurent Belligoi (both released, France), Massimo Cuttitta (released, Italy), Luke Gross (Rovigo), Paul Delaney (retired), Rob Hitchmough (Wakefield), Adam Leach (Australia).


The introduction of Wallaby Pat Howard into the midfield to make better use of the talents of Will Greenwood, Tim Stimpson et al should see some more cohesive performances. The pack invariably do their bit and with the likes of England flanker Neil Back linking in his brilliant fashion with Joel Stransky, expect fireworks.

Rugby manager: Dean Richards

Coach: John Wells, Joel Stransky

Captain: Martin Johnson

Last season: 4th

In: Pat Howard (ACT, Australia), Dave Lougheed (Canada), Tim Stimpson (Newcastle), Adam Balding, James Grindal (both England Schools).

Out: Marcus Briggs, Phil Delaney (both Blackheath), Tim Barlow (Bristol), Mark Jasnickowski, James Wingham (both Rugby Lions), Wasaile Serevi, Marika Vunibaka (released, Fiji), Bill Fuller (West Hartlepool).


Frankly an unknown quantity. Much will depend on how quickly they gel. With 26 of last year's squad now scattered to the four winds and the Emerald Isle, Dick Best and his former Harlequin right-hand man Andy Keast will have their work cut out. But there is some serious southern hemisphere either at Sunbury, or on its way.

Director of Rugby: Dick Best

Assistant: Andy Keast

Captain: Conor O'Shea

Last season: 11th - survived play-offs, again

In: Robin Hardwick, James Brown (both Coventry), Mike Worsley (Bristol), Steve Bachop, Jarrod Cunningham (both Wellington, NZ), Michael Howe (Bay of Plenty, NZ), Rob Gallagher (Manly, Australia), Simon Berridge, Jake Boer (Western Province, S Africa), Kevin Putt, Ryan Strudwick (both Natal, S Africa), Pieter Rogers (Gauteng Lions, S Africa), Kris Fullman (Bristol), Richard Kirke (Bedford), Robert Todd (London Scottish), Matt Jones (Moseley).

Out: A total of 26 departures, among whom were: Liam Mooney, Tony Redmond (both Blackheath), Jeremy Davidson, Ken O'Connell (both Castres), Gabriel Fulcher (Lansdowne), Garry Halpin (Harlequins), Niall Hogan (unattached), David Humphreys, Justin Fitzpatrick, Mark McCall (all Dungannon), Sean Burns (Nuneaton), Robert Kellam (Newbury), Ian McLoughlin (Blackrock), Barry Walsh (retired).


A new ground, The Stoop, which they will share with Quins and some heavyweight southern hemisphere power players up front - notably the near 20-stone Aussie, Damien Cummins, at hooker - promise much. Free State stand-off Jannie de Beer is no lightweight talent and Simon Holmes on the flank is always a danger.

Director of Rugby: John Steele

Coach: tbc

Captain: Rob Hunter

Last season: Promoted after beating Bristol in play-offs

In: Simon Binns, Guy Easterby (Rotherham), Jannie de Beer (Free State, S Africa), Damien Cummins (Manly, Australia), Brad Hepi (Hull Sharks RL), Mark McAtamney (Canterbury, NZ), Guy Manson-Bishop (Western Province, S Africa), Ian McIntyre, Sean Mason (both Cardiff).

Out: Colin Morley (Rugby Lions), Robert Todd (London Irish), John Allan (retired), Adam Jackson (London Welsh), Tom Jankovich (S Africa), Jim Kelly (Bracknell), Courtney Smith (Canada)


No Simon Mannix, but maybe that is just as well. Tom Beim, Pat Sanderson and Jos Baxendell will have learned much from their England experience of the summer. David Rees and Beim should be potent out wide and in Dion O'Cuinneagain they have the fastest forward on the break in this country, if not the world.

Director of Rugby: John Mitchell

Assistant coach: Graham Dawe (forwards)

Captain: Jim Mallender

Last season: 7th

In: Jan Machacek (Newport), Barrie-Jon Mather (Castleford - joins in January 1998).

Out: John Fowler (released), Simon Mannix (Gloucester), Matt Kirke (Manchester).


How much will Pat Lam be missed? No amount of brave noises from the management can get away from the fact that Lam made a huge impact on their title challenge. It is time for Jonny Wilkinson to be allowed to flourish although, with Andrew continuing at stand-off, another slot further out beckons the talented youngster.

Director of Rugby: Rob Andrew

Coach: Steve Bates

Captain: Dean Ryan

Last season: Champions

In: Marius Hurter (Western Province, S Africa), Peter Massey (Moseley), Ian Peel (Wharfedale), Michael Wood (West Hartlepool).

Out: Pat Lam, Richard Metcalfe (both Northampton), Chris Simpson-Daniel (Wakefield), Tim Stimpson (Leicester), Alan Tait (Edinburgh), John Bentley (Rotherham), David Barnes (Harlequins), Maurice Fitzgerald (Richmond).


The arrival of Pat Lam will inject dynamism into the forwards, not that they have been short of that commodity in the past. Matt Dawson matured into a fine scrum-half on England's Tour to Hell in the summer. Tim Rodber should be fit and, with Paul Grayson's reliable boot, should be among the challengers for honours.

Director of Rugby: Ian McGeechan

Coach: Paul Larkin

Captain: Tim Rodber

Last season: 8th

In: Frederico Mendez (Bath), Pat Lam, Richard Metcalfe (both Newcastle), David Dantiacq (Pau).

Out: Martin Bayfield, Rob McNaughton (both retired), Gregor Townsend (Brive), Jonathan Bell, Allan Clarke (both Dungannon), Philip Greaves (West Hartlepool), Dave Merlin (Blackheath), Andy Gallagher (Rugby Lions), Shem Tatupu (Wasps).


Another club with a new home, this one up-river, deep in the Thames valley at Reading. Laurent Cabannes has joined and, provided he recovers the form and fanaticism shown in his early days at Harlequins, he should galvanise the forays upfield. The Argentinian scrum-half Agustin Pichot should also be crucial, as will the brilliant Allan Bateman in the centre.

Director of Rugby: John Kingston

Captain: Ben Clarke

Last season: 5th

In: Laurent Cabannes (Harlequins), Andy Beattie (Exeter), Brian Cusack (Bath), Matt Dixon (NSW, Australia), Maurice Fitzgerald (Newcastle), Nick Walne (Cambridge Univ).

Out: Ben Harvey (Worcester), Jim Fallon (Bath), Steve Cottrell, Jim Foster, Mike Hutton, Richard West (all retired), Rolando Martin (released, Argentina), Simon Mason (Ballymena).


Alain Penaud is well capable of assuming the mantle of responsibility that once belonged to Michael Lynagh. Danny Grewcock will have to show that he has put his sending-off Down Under down to experience and get back to his ebullient best up front. In the backs, Jeremy Thompson from Natal will add power and pace to the midfield.

Director of Rugby: Mark Evans

Coach: Francois Pienaar

Captain: Tony Diprose

Last season: 2nd; Tetley Bitter Cup winners.

In: Troy Coker (ACT, Australia), Alain Penaud (Brive), Jeremy Thompson (Natal, S Africa).

Out: Michael Lynagh, Philippe Sella (both retired), Mark Burrow (Wakefield), Ben Sturnham (Bath), Tony Copsey (Llanelli),


No matter how long Lawrence Dallaglio is going to be out with this shoulder injury of his, Wasps just have to get on with it and improve on last season's dire showing. Josh Lewsey will provide competition for Alex King's stand- off berth and the New Zealander Mark Weedon should prove an uncompromising captain. There could be a lot of reliance on their batch of promising youngsters.

Director of Rugby: Nigel Melville

Coach: Rob Smith

Captain: Mark Weedon

Last season: 9th, beaten Tetley's Bitter Cup finalists

In: Josh Lewsey, Eben Rollitt, Fraser Waters (all Bristol), Shem Tatupu (Northampton), Brian Taylor (Counties, NZ).

Out: Aaron James (Blackheath), Richard Kinsey (Rugby), Guy Gregory (Camberley).


They too have a new stadium, sharing Hartlepool United FC's Victoria Ground. Whether that will also mean a more permanent move into the top flight - they have managed to be relegated on the previous two occasions that they have been promoted - remains to be seen. The former All Blacks back-row player, Mike Brewer, will have his work cut out this season.

Director of Rugby: Mike Brewer

Captain: Tu Nu'ualitia

Last season: Promoted as runners-up in Division Two

In: Richard Stone (Bedford), Philip Greaves (Northampton), Bill Fuller (Leicester), Peter Tanginoa (Northland, NZ), JJ van der Esch (Dundee HSFP).

Out: Michael Wood (Newcastle), Dave Mitchell, Phil Harvey (both Darlington Mowden Park).

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