A contretemps pitting three leading French players against officialdom - and threatening France's chances against New Zealand in November - escalated yesterday when they decided to continue playing in South Africa until the Currie Cup final on 14 October.
The lock Olivier Roumat and centre Thierry Lacroix have spent the three post-World Cup months playing for Natal, who need only a draw from their last two fixtures to qualify for the final. The flanker Laurent Cabannes has been representing Western Province, who need to win both their remaining games.
All three have been told by Bernard Lapasset, who was re-elected president of the French rugby federation at the weekend, that they will be made to rest for a month once they return home. "It's a very tough decision by the federation because we are playing very good, hard rugby over here and it is ideal preparation for a series against the All Blacks," Roumat said.
France's Tests against the All Blacks are on 11 and 18 November in Toulouse and Paris - leaving Pierre Berbizier, the France coach, in despair at a time when his reappointment has still to be agreed by Lapasset and Albert Ferrasse, the former federation president, has already publicly called for his dismissal. "How can we go into a series with the All Blacks without three of our key players and expect to win?" he said in Durban after seeing Roumat and Lacroix help Natal to a 22-19 win over Orange Free State.
Professional rugby is about to claim an illustrious victim with Cardiff's expected decision to end 115 years of tradition by winding up their second team, the Athletic, otherwise known as the "Rags". In Wales, second-team rugby is not a paying proposition.
The former Wales hooker Nigel Meek, 29, was yesterday sentenced to six months' imprisonment for an assault in a match between neighbouring fire services. Meek, who plays for Newbridge, was convicted at Cardiff Crown Court of causing grievous bodily harm by breaking Ian Greenman's jaw when Gwent firemen played their Mid Glamorgan counterparts.Reuse content