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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Swansea target repeat
Gavin Henson
Gavin Henson is already an accomplished fly-half
Swansea begin the new season as defending Welsh-Scottish League champions and it is difficult to see anyone taking that trophy away from St Helens.

The All Whites will also be one of the favourites for the Celtic League title, although they must first qualify from the harder of the two pools.

With the failed attempt to bring rugby league star Keiron Cunningham to Swansea, there have been no big signings to bolster John Plumtree's squad.

The All Whites have also lost the services of defensive coach Clive Griffiths to the Welsh Rugby Union, while Wales and Lions centre Mark Taylor is likely to miss three months of the season with knee cartilage trouble.

Nevertheless, Swansea have the resources to shrug off these set-backs and have club captain Scott Gibbs back to full health after he missed the end of last season with a broken thumb.

  Season tips:
Celtic League prediction: Knock-out stage
Welsh-Scottish League prediction: 1st
Star player: Gavin Henson

Wales Under-21 centre Matthew Brayley has impressed pre-season, while young prop Gareth Mason has deputised ably for injured Lion Darren Morris.

Fly-half Arwel Thomas is still recovering slowly from his injury problems, but Gavin Henson demonstrated last season the depth of the talent that Swansea have available.

Lions flanker Colin Charvis will be missed at the beginning of the season as he takes a well-earned rest, but the return of backrow Hywel Jenkins from a lengthy injury will offset that.

Hooker Chris Wells is also available for selection after another long absence through injury.

First-choice locks Andy Moore and Tyrone Maullin are both on the treatment table for the start of the season but should return to action soon.

The Heineken Cup confrontations between Swansea and Bath will be tight, but both clubs would expect to advance from a pool also containing Biarritz and Edinburgh.

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