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Picture Cohen - on strike.

COHEN ON STRIKE AFTER CAPTAINCY SNUB

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By Alex Lowe, PA Sport

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Ben Cohen's immediate rugby future remains clouded in controversy and confusion after his public split with Northampton.

The 2003 England World Cup winner has effectively gone on strike in protest at Saints' appointment of Bruce Reihana for their National League One campaign, which starts against London Welsh on Saturday week.

He has not trained with Northampton since they made the Reihana announcement last Wednesday.

And the 28-year-old subsequently informed Saints chairman Keith Barwell of his intention to leave Franklin's Gardens.

Guinness Premiership champions Leicester have been rumoured as a possible destination for powerful wing Cohen.

For starters though, Tigers would almost certainly baulk at the substantial six-figure sum Saints will require to free up Cohen from the remaining year of his club contract.

At this stage, Cohen will be on the sidelines for club and country when the new campaign kicks off. Saints continue their pre-season preparations by hosting Harlequins on Saturday.

Cohen, meanwhile, withdrew from England's World Cup preparations earlier this year to spend more time with his wife Abby, who is expecting twins.

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder said: "Ben's contract with the club runs until the end of the coming season, and he is not able to play for any other club in the meantime."

Barwell added: "Ben came to see me and said he was unhappy about not being appointed captain. He said: 'That's it, I'm off'.

"I am bitterly disappointed, both with Ben's decision and also with his action in staying away.

"He has been a brilliant servant to the club for more than 11 years, but no man is bigger than the club.

"It is the director of rugby's responsibility to appoint the captain and I support Jim's choice of Bruce Reihana wholeheartedly - his decision must be final."

Cohen is in the middle of a testimonial year - there are several events still scheduled - having made his Northampton debut in 1996.

A spokesman for Cohen said: "Ben is saddened by the way the club have behaved and hoped that their differences could be dealt with amicably and privately.

"Given the Saints' relegation to Division One, Ben was to keen to take on more responsibility and saw the challenge of the captaincy as one he would have relished for the club he has played for his whole career and cares for deeply."

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