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Northampton 19:45 Gloucester

Saints take European gamble

By Ben Blackmore.   Last Updated: 29/09/06 9:58am

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Northampton Saints have gambled on the fitness of key men Bruce Reihana and Jon Clarke, selecting them in their Heineken Cup squad.

Despite the fact both players are expected miss Saints' opening four Cup encounters, director of rugby Budge Pountney and head coach Paul Grayson hope the duo can return for January clashes with Biarritz and Border Reivers.

Talented centre Clarke broke his ankle in the opening match of the season against Newcastle, while full-back Reihana joined him on the sidelines after picking up a knee injury against Gloucester - ironically whilst playing in Clarke's midfield role.

All teams are allowed to draft in one replacement player during the Heineken Cup group stages, with two more permitted ahead of the quarter-finals.

"All our injured players have been considered as options, as we believe they will come through," said Pountney.

"Due to them (Reihana and Clarke) both being very important to us, we wanted to make sure they were included in the squad as we could struggle to include them at a later date."

Meanwhile, England Under-21 hooker Dylan Hartley has signed a contract extension that keeps him at the club until the summer of 2008.

Grayson commented on the new deal: "Dylan is a very exciting young player. He has plenty of talent and is very keen to succeed. He has a lot to learn but has the potential to play at the highest level."

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