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Bemand out but internationals return

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Pat Howard has welcomed back his senior international players in preparation for this weekend's EDF Energy Cup semi-final against Sale Sharks, but he will be without scrum-half Scott Bemand due to the knee injury he suffered in the closing minutes of last Saturday's Guinness Premiership win over Bath Rugby.

Bemand had only entered the action as a second-half replacement for Frank Murphy at scrum-half, but was injured in a ruck during the final stages which led to his departure on a stretcher and Tigers defending their lead with just 12 men.

Head coach Howard revealed that Bemand has had one scan on the injury, but it is still unclear how long he would be ruled out of action. "It could be a couple of weeks or it could be longer," said Howard.

"We have a few other guys struggling a little bit with injuries. Leo Cullen and Ollie Smith have foot injuries, but nothing long term. Martin Castrogiovanni has a knee injury and Lewis Moody has had a shoulder injury, but they are working their way back, it is just a question of how quickly."

Martin Corry, George Chuter, Louis Deacon, Julian White and Harry Ellis returned to Oval Park from international duty with England, while Scotland's James Hamilton and Ireland's Geordan Murphy were also welcomed back this week after Six Nations call-ups.

"If the guys coming back from internationals are fit we will get them involved, if not and we have to look after them, then we will look after them," said Howard.

And after admitting to being short of options at fly-half at times recently following injuries to his frontline trio, Howard is delighted to have them all back in contention for the trip to the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

"We have three fly-halves available and the three guys all have their own traits," he said. "Paul Burke is extremely consistent, Ian Humphreys is a threat as a runner and Andy Goode is an outstanding goal-kicker."