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The Sports Matrix: Tuesday 6 November 2012

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

Ahead of tonight's vital Champions League match against Ajax, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini reacted angrily to questions about his commitment to the club, after he said he had spoken to other teams. "I don't understand why you continue to ask me this," he said. MORE

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

Referee Mark Clattenburg will not officiate at a Premier League match for the second consecutive week as the FA investigates his alleged "inappropriate language" used against Chelsea's John Obi Mikel during their loss to Manchester United. MORE

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.

James Lawton

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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