O'Connor anger at treatment by hosts

Ireland captain criticises allocation of dressing-rooms for quarter-final with England
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The Independent Online

Ireland have complained about an alleged snub that has left them with the away team facilities for their World Cup quarter-final against England at Headingley on Saturday despite winning their qualifying group.

Ireland have complained about an alleged snub that has left them with the away team facilities for their World Cup quarter-final against England at Headingley on Saturday despite winning their qualifying group.

"We have been told we are in the away dressing-room, which we think is all wrong," said the Irish captain, Terry O'Connor. "After all, we won our group, which is more than England have done."

The Irish are already annoyed with England and Leeds over their reluctance to allow Francis Cummins to represent Ireland in the competition. That has since become academic with the withdrawal of Cummins from the England squad through injury. "But it all makes us all the keener to beat them," O'Connor said.

The World Cup organisers have defended the status quo at Headingley. "Ireland were told 10 days ago that England as host country get the home changing rooms," said the lead officer for the tournament, Greg McCallum. "The position is not negotiable."

The Wales prop Dave Whittle is out of the rest of the tournament after suffering damaged ligaments in his neck in the defeat by New Zealand at Cardiff on Sunday.

Whittle, who plays for Leigh in the Northern Ford Premiership but who has impressed in international company, was carried off on a stretcher in a neck brace and has been told he must do no contact work for six weeks. Wales wanted to call up Paul Moriarty as a replacement but have been refused permission by his club, Swansea, while England have decided against seeking a replacement for their injured winger Leon Pryce.

The New Zealand prop Joe Vagana is in negotiation with Bradford. Vagana, who weighs in at around 20 stones, is one of a number of players who are for sale following the financial collapse of the Auckland Warriors.

The Lebanese forward Sami Chamoun is looking for an English club after a string of good displays in the World Cup. Chamoun, previously with Illawarra, was the Lebanese man of the match in all three of their group games and said: "I'd love to play over here, where the crowd gets right behind you."

Meanwhile, a 13-man delegation from the Lebanese squad has flown to Beirut to meet the country's president and discuss with its sports authorities the prospects of staging a match there. "Sport has the power to unite a country," said the Lebanon coach, John Elias, who, like the rest of the party, is based in Australia.

The South Africa captain, Jamie Bloem, the Halifax Blue Sox player, could be in disciplinary trouble for criticising a referee after his side's defeat by France in their last match of the World Cup. McCallum is to investigate remarks allegedly made by Bloem in the news conference following the Rhinos' defeat yesterday.

Bloem is reported to have criticised the Australian referee Steven Clark, who had dismissed the player for verbal abuse.

That punishment was deemed to be sufficient by the match commissioner. McCallum said: "I have been asked to investigate Jamie's alleged remarks. We take a very dim view of players who criticise referees publicly. But in Jamie's case until I have completed my investigation I cannot make any further comment."

If Bloem is found to have a case to answer he could face a charge of bringing the game into disrepute, and the disciplinary commission has the power to levy a fine or impose a ban from future international rugby.

Bloem has never been far from controversy during his English career. The former Oldham, Castleford, Doncaster and Widnes forward was forced to sit out the 1995 World Cup after being banned for two years for steroid abuse. He was also given a 13-week suspension for biting during the 1999 season.

The first-ever Women's World Series gets under way tonight when Great Britain and Ireland play New Zealand at The Boulevard, Hull.

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