French in the dock

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
Welsh officials were yesterday studying videos before deciding whether to take any further action over several off-the-ball incidents during Wednesday's international against France.

The Welsh stand-off, Neil Jenkins, claimed he was spat at by the French centre Richard Dourthe, who was also involved in a clash with his opposite number, Leigh Davies. The lock Olivier Merle was another Frenchman to be singled out by Welsh players after prop Christian Loader suffered a facial injury in his side's 40-33 defeat.

Wales are confident the international with Australia will go ahead at the Arms Park in Cardiff on 1 December. The Australians were considering pulling out of the game unless a fixture could also be arranged with England to complete a grand slam during their forthcoming tour.

The Welsh Rugby Union chairman, Vernon Pugh, said yesterday: "Australia have given no indication they won't be honouring the fixture."

The British Lions tour to South Africa next summer will go ahead despite the continuing row between the Rugby Football Union and the clubs. Ray Williams, chairman of the Four Home Unions Tours Committee, said the 13- match tour was still on when he helped unveil a major sponsorship and kit deal for the Lions in Cardiff yesterday. "The Lions tour is definitely on - we are forging ahead with all the necessary arrangements," he said.

The Lions coach, Ian McGeechan, added: "I don't think the clubs have ever said players would not be available for internationals or the Lions. The clubs want the union to realise that the game has changed and they have to accept that. It is the unions, after all, who turned the game professional."

Scott Hastings, Scotland's most capped international who is aiming for a place on the Lions tour, yesterday suggested Scottish players, who like their English counterparts have not signed contracts with their union, may do so soon. "We're very close, it could happen in the next week to 10 days," Hastings said at the launch of his autobiography.

Meanwhile McGeechan believes the Lions should start playing series against touring teams. "If teams like South Africa or New Zealand come here to play the four home nations, then they should play a three-Test series against the British Lions afterwards," McGeechan said.

The new kit retains the traditional Lions jersey, while incorporating the Adidas three-stripes hallmark.

The Heineken European Cup organisers, having lost ITV's pounds 10m over the next two years, have said if they fail to find alternative broadcasting money, they will let ITV screen the competition for free. They have also said it has been reorganised to incorporate a quarter-final stage that ITV had wanted. That means the semi-finals will be put back to 4 January, when the final was due to be played.

The Coventry chairman, Gerry Sugrue, yesterday calmed fears that the Second Division club's decision to sign an agreement with an international development and investment corporation was a takeover. "This is not a takeover, it is a welcome association," Sugrue said of a deal reportedly worth more than pounds 1m with The Leander Group. "When the club issues shares to its members in the near future, Leander will become shareholders and will have a representative on the board."

The tug-of-war for the services of the former All Black Frano Botica took a novel twist yesterday when Orrell named him in their side to play Wasps tomorrow - even though Llanelli are likely to name him to play Swansea, also tomorrow. Llanelli claim they have agreed a pounds 75,000 transfer fee with Botica's League club Castleford, while Orrell say he is contracted to play for them in the winter.

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