Clubs 'will pay players not to go to 2015 World Cup'
The 2015 Rugby World Cup in England risks being devalued by European clubs preventing players from Fiji and other Pacific nations from representing their countries.
That is the stark warning from a leading players' representative following new claims that the integrity of previous tournaments, notably the 2011 event in New Zealand, was compromised by the participation of weakened teams.
England – who play Fiji on Saturday – are preparing to host the World Cup for the first time since 1991 and, with it once again overlapping the European domestic season, the practice among some clubs of offering financial incentives to Pacific Islanders to ignore their countries' call could mean Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are deprived of key players in rugby's global showpiece. Nicky Little, above, the former Fiji fly-half who has played club rugby in five European countries, describes the practice as "blackmail". A former coach of French club Racing Métro has claimed three Fijian players were offered financial inducements not to take part in the last World Cup. MORE
Lancaster forced to reshuffle squad
Wasps' Joe Launchbury was called up to Stuart Lancaster's England squad as temporary cover for Tom Palmer yesterday. It is expected that Brad Barritt of Saracens and Leicester's Manu Tuilagi will be reunited in the backs against Fiji on Saturday. MORE
Santos's RVP shirt gaffe riles Wenger
Arsenal left-back Andre Santos has been reprimanded by his manager, Arsène Wenger, after collecting Robin van Persie's shirt at half-time in the 2-1 loss at Manchester United on Saturday. "I don't like it and it will not happen again," Wenger said last night. MORE
Mancini snaps at press grilling
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Odemwingie at the double for Baggies
Two goals from Peter Odemwingie secured a 2-0 win for West Bromwich against Southampton at The Hawthorns last night. Southampton remain at the foot of the table after their eighth loss in 10 league matches this season, while the Baggies move up to fifth. MORE
Strachan favourite for Scotland role
Gordon Strachan has emerged as the favourite to take over as Scotland manager after Craig Levein's three-year spell ended yesterday. The Scotland Under-21 head coach, Billy Stark, will take charge of next week's friendly in Luxembourg. MORE
Clattenburg off referee list again
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Murray outlasts Berdych in opener
Andy Murray began the ATP World Tour Finals in London with a victory yesterday, but the British world No 3 had to fight back from a set down to defeat the Czech Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the O2 Arena in Greenwich. MORE
Compton makes his play for Test berth
Nick Compton staked his claim to the vacant England Test opener's slot yesterday, hitting an unbeaten 64 as the tour match in Mumbai ended in a draw. Meanwhile, scans showed the damage on Stuart Broad's heel was just bruising. MORE
Hawk steps in to challenge Cleverly
Nathan Cleverly will make the fourth defence of his WBO light-heavyweight title as scheduled in Los Angeles on Saturday, but against an unheralded American, Shawn Hawk, who has stepped in for Ryan Coyne.
Roberto Mancini's pitiful record in Europe is bad enough but just as damaging is that almost every time he speaks he gives us an insight into the likely reasons why it is quite so dire. MORE
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