Londoners renew league campaign

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The Independent Online
It may have been overlooked amid the tumult of the Five Nations' Championship but we are approaching the business end of the club season as well and when Wasps play Harlequins in today's only First Division fixture - the first in league or cup at Sudbury for 18 profitless weeks - business is indeed the operative word, writes Steve Bale.

In the case of the premier London clubs, the business specifically concerns entry into European competition next season which for some will be essential in affording the new professionalism. Quins lie third and would need a sharp loss of form to miss out; Wasps have slipped to a more precarious fifth.

Talk of form, however, is at best precise, the league season having been hopelessly fragmented by the Five Nations. Wasps' captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, has been claimed by England pre-Test training, as have the captains of Quins and England, Jason Leonard and Will Carling, but the recent Ireland captain, Jim Staples, is chosen for Quins after recovering from concussion.

The Llewellyns of Neath will have a particular interest in these proceedings. Earlier in the season Gareth signed for Wasps before later choosing Harlequins. Yesterday, Wasps revealed that his elder brother Glyn, also a lock and capped nine times in 1990 and '91, was coming to Sudbury instead.

Neither club has enough England involvement to dodge today's metropolitan issue. But Bath and Leicester have cited regulations - three or more England absentees - in order to have their games against Gloucester and Sale respectively postponed again. Likewise Northampton against Wakefield in the Second Division.

This is also the weekend of the semi-finals of the County Championship. Warwickshire, the holders, play Lancashire, champions 16 times, at Preston today, with Surrey against Gloucestershire to follow at Imber Court tomorrow.

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