Bartlett may be next Kiwi in a kilt

Another import from New Zealand is on the verge of joining the Scottish rugby ranks, following the arrival of Michael Bartlett at Glasgow Caledonians.

The 21-year-old winger, who qualifies for Scotland through his maternal grandfather, has been selected for Glasgow Caledonians against Neath tomorrow, just a week after arriving in Scotland.

The player has not been offered a contract yet by the Reds, and is effectively on a one-game trial because tomorrow's game is the last of the season for the super district. He was registered for the Welsh/Scottish League before the January deadline, and would have joined the Reds earlier had he not been recovering from a shoulder injury which required keyhole surgery.

"He approached us initially, and arrived last weekend," said Reds chief executive David Jordan. "We want to look at his surgery and form a detailed judgment."

Jordan was also pleased to announce that four of his players who are Scotland squad members have all signed new contracts, namely Andy Nicol, Gordon McIlwham, Jason White and Alan Bulloch. Nicol and White have agreed three-year deals, and Bulloch and McIlwham have signed for two years.

Nicol, insists that the new deals, along with last week'sre-signings at Edinburgh Reivers, will convince other players that Scottish rugby is on the up.

"I'm very pleased to sign to join the youngsters who have also signed up with the club," said Nicol.

"There has been a lot of negative reports about Scottish rugby and the super teams in particular so it is important that current internationals like Chris Paterson, Graham Shiel and ourselves have committed to playing up here.

"I certainly see good things ahead up here for the Glasgow Reds and that is why I have signed the new deal.

"If you have the majority of your squad on multi-year deals, it means that you will have continuity and stability.

"That is very positive. You cannot keep chopping and changing things. We brought this side together last summer and we have come together fairly well in my opinion.

"Now we will have a period of continuity which can only be good for the team, Scotland and Scottish rugby."

Nicol led Scotland to the Calcutta Cup win over England last month while White made his debut in the same game. He was appointed Reds' captain when he joined from the English club at the start of the season.

"When I joined the Reds, I welcomed the opportunity to return to playing rugby in Scotland," said Nicol.

"I'm pleased that I can extend that commitment by signing this new contract."

White was the one player out of the four who have re-signed who would have made a big enough impact last season to attract the attention of an English or French team, but he is happy to be staying in Scotland.

He said: "This has been a great year - my international debut, a win against England, and now a new contract."

Jordan was equally delighted with the news that the players had committed themselves to the team.

"It's great news for us that players of the calibre of Andy, Jason, Gordon and Alan have signed contracts before the end of our season."

Glasgow Caledonians (v Neath, at The Gnoll, tomorrow 7pm): T Hayes, M Bartlett, I Jardine, J Stuart, A Bulloch, B irving, A Nicol; A Watt,G Scott, G McIlwham, S Campbell, J White,R Reid, G Simpson, D Macfadyen. Substitutes:R Couper, I McInroy, F Stott, M Waite, J Petrie, D Herrington, G Bulloch.

Newcastle have signed Cardiff and England A wing Liam Botham, son of cricket legend Ian. The Falcons have landed Botham on a three-year contract, reputedly worth more than 200,000, pinching him from under Harlequins' noses.

Botham is a likely selection for England's two-Test summer tour of South Africa, and playing Premiership rugby on a weekly basis will clearly assist his international ambitions.

"Liam wants to be in the north-east because he feels that is his home," said Newcastle director of rugby Rob Andrew.

"We tried to get him when he went to Cardiff from West Hartlepool, but he'd already signed for them. We've spoken to a lot of people about Liam, and no one has a bad word to say about him."