Grewcock returns as Bath aim to go one step further

Parker Pen Cup: Last season's beaten finalists lifted for trip to Italy by England lock's recovery as first round begins today

By David Llewellyn
Saturday 06 December 2003 01:00

Danny Grewcock makes his first start for Bath after his injury-ridden World Cup with England, as does his international team-mate Iain Balshaw when the Zurich Premiership leaders today meet the Italian side, L'Aquila, in the first leg of the opening round of this season's Parker Pen Cup.

Bath, who lost last year's final to Wasps, have rested Mike Catt, Mike Tindall and the hooker Jonathan Humphreys, but their squad still contains seven internationals for the away tie.

The lock Grewcock, who played once in the World Cup, has recovered from a broken toe and a fractured hand, to take up the reins as club captain again. But because of injuries, ineligibility and suspension, John Connolly, the head coach, has been able to name just four replacements, all of them forwards.

The Saracens bench contains the former France captain and hooker Raphael Ibanez with the coach, Rod Kafer, promising: "I am sure we will give Raphael a run." There are four changes from last week's team for today's match away to Roma.

Kris Chesney plays in the back row with Tony Roques on England sevens duty. The No 8 Ben Skirving replaces Taine Randell (rested) and Paul Bailey starts at full-back. Nicky Little will forge Saracens' centre partnership with Ben Johnston. Kafer added: "We are also resting Kyran Bracken. It also gives him time with his wife, who is due to have their first child in the next few days."

The extreme weather conditions in the south-west of France has forced London Irish's tie against Montauban to be switched from the Stade de Sapiac this evening to the Stade Georges Pompidou at 1.30pm local time tomorrow.

There are four changes from last week's starting line-up, with Paul Gustard replacing Declan Danaher, who has a back injury, in the back row. Ed Thrower plays at full-back, Nick Greenstock replaces Geoff Appleford at outside centre, and Mark Mapletoft comes in at fly-half for the injured Barry Everitt.

Jonny Wilkinson must watch from the sidelines when his Newcastle team-mates travel to Spain's La Moraleja Alcobendas with Dave Walder continuing to deputise in the No 10 shirt. Wilkinson is expected to play in the return leg at Kingston Park on Sunday week.

Harlequins also travel to northern Spain where they take on Cetransa El Salvador, based in Valladolid, 130 miles north of Madrid. Cetransa are the Spanish champions, and are unbeaten in their last 29 domestic games, with this season's record reading: played nine, won nine, producing a points difference of plus 324. They also boast Spain's back row of Ivan Criado Garachana, Alfonso Mata Suarez and Carlos Souto.

Quins are without Andre Vos, who is in South Africa to see his family, Paul Burke, Mike Worsley and George Harder, who are injured, Ugo Monye and Pat Sanderson, who are on sevens duty for England, Tony Diprose and Mel Deane, who are being rested, and Jason Leonard and Will Greenwood have other commitments on Monday, along with the rest of the England World-Cup winners.

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