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Rugby Lions Face New Season With New Reality

The harsh economic realities of professional sport mean that it will be a new look Rugby Lions that takes to the Webb Ellis Road field against Coventry today.

Lions have been hit hard by the failure of professional rugby at Premiership Two level and have slashed their full-time squad.Martin Davies, Rugby Lions

They now only have one full time player – full back Martin Davies – and that’s because he was on a two year contract which runs until the end of this season.

But the raft of Welsh imports have all gone and the emphasis is on producing home grown talent. Even the popular Samoan To’o Vaega may not return after the World Cup.

Eddie Saunders, Rugby LionsSkipper Eddie Saunders, in charge for the first time in his 12 years at the club, feels the cut backs will be a familiar story at all levels of the game.

"There have been major changes at our club purely because of the enforced cut backs in expenditure. A lot of clubs are pulling back their horns and it means a lot of players who went full time have moved on.

"But they will not all find new clubs and I feel sorry for the younger guys who went in to it full time and now have to find their way back into the employment market.

"There have simply not been the returns that were expected and even the wealthier clubs at our level, like Worcester, are not spending as they were.

"It means that we are being paid to play – but not being paid to be players."

That has meant an influx of untried talent to fill the gaps, and local, home-grown players such as centres Trevor Powell and Mark Jaznoski getting a chance to shine.

There have been changes off the field as well. Elisabeth The Chef are no longer team sponsors but their former owner David Owen remains as chairman.Richard Kinsey, Rugby Lions

Richard Kinsey is now head coach as well as a player, Mal Malik is chairman of selectors, Richard Powell returns to the club as backs coach while David Bishop takes over as team manager.

There is, according to record league try scorer Saunders, a positive angle to the relative financial hardship.

"We are now playing for pride and that is good. I think it is fair to say that I lot of players were at the club purely for the money and that is not good. Just in the last month or so I have detected a real buzz of excitement about the new season which has been great."

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CWN / Sport / Rugby / Rugby Lions  / 4 Sep 99

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM