Women's Rugby Union: WRU loyalty threat to clubs

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THIS week's heavy-handed assault on England's Premiership clubs by Vernon Pugh, the chairman of the International Rugby Board, was put in ironic perspective yesterday as the full extent of the internal squabble in Wales finally became clear. Pugh, a former chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, was given a timely reminder that the state of the game in his homeland remains more anarchic than anything currently happening on the other side of the Severn Bridge.

While Rugby Football Union officials were announcing the completion of positive peace talks with the Allied Dunbar clubs, details of which will be revealed after next Friday's management board meeting at Twickenham, the WRU has threatened to throw seven teams out of the eight-club Welsh Premiership unless they sign 10-year loyalty agreements.

Bizarrely, the one club not under threat of expulsion are Cardiff, who have been at loggerheads with the union for months and are in the process of hauling the WRU before the High Court. "I hope we can reach agreement with Cardiff without having to take that step but, whatever, they will be eligible to play in next season's Premiership until November, when the court hearing is scheduled," said Glanmor Griffiths, the WRU chairman. "We would also have to nominate them for next season's European Cup should they finish in the top four of the league this time."

The remaining seven clubs will attend a general meeting in Port Talbot on 17 May, where WRU officials will insist they sign as a condition of entry into next season's Premiership. "I fully expect them to sign," Griffiths said.

l Fran Cotton, the 1997 Lions manager who resigned last month as vice- chairman of the Rugby Football Union's management board, will attempt to force a special general meeting of the RFU over the continuing political wrangle with England's leading professional clubs. Cotton needs the backing of 100 affiliated clubs and despite a sharp drop in nationwide support, he may well get his way with the help of a grass-roots publicity drive.