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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Neath ready to kick on
Barry Williams
Barry Williams will add extra bite in the scrum
Neath just missed out on a Heineken Cup place last season as Bridgend pipped them to the last spot on offer by finishing fifth in the Welsh-Scottish League.

But the Welsh All Blacks have made some canny signings over the summer and will want to build on late season form that saw them knock out favourites Swansea on the way to the Principality Cup final.

Despite playing the better rugby at the Millennium Stadium final, Neath were denied by Newport thanks to the kicking of No 10 Shane Howarth.

  Season tips:
Celtic League prediction: Play-off stage possible
Welsh-Scottish League prediction: 6th
Star player: Lee Jarvis

With the signing of fly-half Lee Jarvis from Pontypridd, Neath now have the top-quality tactician and frontline kicker at half-back they have been lacking at the Gnoll.

The return of former Lions and Wales centre Allan Bateman will add an extra dimension behind the scrum, while another former Lions and Wales cap, hooker Barry Williams, has joined from Bristol.

The Welsh All Blacks have also recruited South African lock John Slade, No 8 Alfie Mocelutu from Caerphilly, fly-half Shaun Connor from Ebbw Vale and scrum-half Andy Moore from Treviso

Centre Tristan Davies has accepted an offer to join newly-promoted Zurich Premiership side Leeds, while scrum-half Mark Davies has also decided to leave the Gnoll.

Like Caerphilly, Neath have an enticing European Shield season ahead of them with Bristol, French side Bourgoin and Arix Viadana of Italy in their pool.

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