Countries in line for rich Cup pickings

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

Countries qualifying for future World Cups, including the next one hosted by Wales in 1999, will almost certainly be paid a participation fee in accordance with rugby union's new professional dispensation.

This could amount to as much as pounds 1m each though, in floating the idea at a Rugby World Cup Ltd briefing in London yesterday, the RWC director Marcel Martin named no figures and merely speculated that it could be a percentage of gate-takings. For this year's tournament, participating unions each received pounds 35,000 towards kitting-out.

Martin advised that none of the 1995 profit of pounds 22.1m would be diverted to Max Brito, the Ivorian player who was paralysed in the pool match against Tonga, over and above the insurance already in place. Nor would there be any special provision to safeguard the future of the game in the Pacific islands, which have been abandoned by the southern- hemisphere unions' pounds 360m television deal with Rupert Murdoch.

Qualification for the 1997 World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong will take place at tournaments in Portugal, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, with Ireland hoping to be among the eight who go through from Lisbon, Scotland and Wales among the eight from Dubai and France among the five from Punta del Este.

Along with the hosts, England and Australia, champions and runners-up in 1993, are pre-qualified, a status they do not enjoy for the 1999 World Cup, though neither they nor the Scots and Irish have to undertake more than two qualifying fixtures.

Robert Jones, favourite scrum-half of everyone except the Welsh selectors, was yesterday acknowledged by his coach at Swansea, Mike Ruddock, to be a target for Rob Andrew, Newcastle's new development director. If Garath Archer, a promising but unproven lock, was worth pounds 40,000 a year, even a disillusioned Jones could command a handsome salary.

Garrick Morgan, the Wallaby lock who forwent the World Cup by signing for rugby league, will become the first to take advantage of the free gangway between the codes when he returns to rugby union. Morgan had been well-regarded in union but was a flop with South Queensland Crushers.

Morgan's comeback emphasises the absurdity of the RFU's desire to maintain a stand-down period from code to code. Dave Hinchliffe, MP for Wakefield, and the Parliamentary Rugby League Group, are to discuss the issue with the Minister for Sport later this month.

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