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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Bridgend's great expectations
Dafydd James
Lions wing Dafydd James is a key signing
Coach Dennis John led Bridgend to the final Heineken Cup qualifying spot on offer in the Welsh-Scottish League last year, fifth place.

This success helped persuade managing director Leighton Samuel to brandish his cheque book in the off-season.

The two most high profile signings were Wales centres/wings Dafydd James and Gareth Thomas from Llanelli and Cardiff respectively.

While these two will undoubtably add an extra cutting edge to an already potent Brewery Field backline, it is in the forwards that the canniest recruiting has taken place.

  Season tips:
Celtic League prediction: Knock-out stage possible
Welsh-Scottish League prediction: 4th
Star player: Dafydd James

Bridgend were often found wanting up front last season but have beefed up with the addition of Wales backrow Nathan Budgett, plus lock Deiniol Jones from Ebbw Vale.

John has also added depth to the front row with the addition of former Wales prop Christian Loader from Pontypridd, plus Canada prop John Thiel and hooker Joe Clarke, who has become a permanent fixture after playing last season on permit.

There is also cover for fly-half Craig Warlow, with Cerith Rees signing up at the Brewery Field and he will be needed early on as Warlow recovers from shoulder surgery.

Bridgend will do exceptionally well to advance from a Heineken Cup pool that includes Munster, Castres and Harlequins, but should be challenging in the Celtic and Welsh-Scottish Leagues.

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