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RUGBY UNION Coventry pounce for young stars.

Coventry, once the home of a legion of international players, now have two more. They announced the signing yesterday of Simon Amor and James Hayter, who leave on Sunday on the England Under-21 tour of Argentina.

"We've signed a number of new players whose names we will announce shortly," said Keith Richardson, the director of rugby.

"It should be good for our image to let people know that we now have two England internationals."

Amor, a fly-half, has been signed from Blackheath. Previously, he was with London Irish. Hayter is a hooker from Orrell and as Richardson is England's Under-21 coach, no one knows the two players better.

He describes Amor as "a bit small, but developing physically. He's a very good prospect - almost Welsh in the way that he plays."

Amor, he says, is "tough." And he has spent a year in New Zealand, hardening his game.

Both players should have acquired an added edge by the time they return from the Argentine. England, along with Wales, Ireland and France, are joining the southern hemisphere nations in competition for the Sanzar Cup, which is the junior equivalent of the World Cup.

England play Australia next Friday, South Africa three days later, Wales, the pool games and the finals after that and Richardson promises them a torrid time.

"This is the toughest tournament these lads will play in their lives," he said. "Five internationals in two weeks."

Coventry have started their pre-season training and Richardson has left the squad in little doubt about the fitness levels he expects. There will be regular testing at Warwick University and few sides will be as ready, physically, for the new season as Richardson's men.

England back-row forward Ben Clarke has signed a two-year contract to rejoin Bath after a three-year absence.

Clarke spent five seasons at the Recreation Ground, having joined them from Saracens in July 1991, making 61 league appearances and scoring 14 tries.

Since leaving the west country, he has been captain at Richmond and led them to the Premiership Two title, pipping Newcastle to the top spot, in his first season as skipper.

But last season's financial crisis and the subsequent merger with London Scottish and London Irish has meant an exodus of international talent.

Exeter Chiefs, of Premiership Two, have signed All Black flanker Blair Foote from New Zealand national provincial champions North Harbour.

The 6ft 3ins 15st back-row forward, who is due in Britain on August 3, will bring an impressive pedigree, having played for New Zealand at sevens, Under-21 and full international level.
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Author:Blair, Michael
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 9, 1999
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