Move to end Irish exiles' European row

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
The disputes in rugby just go on and on. Even as England settle down for a series of secret talks with the clubs this week it is Ireland's turn to feel the flak. Leading London Irish players are to meet club officials today to try to secure their release to play for their provinces in the European Cup, which gets underway this weekend. The club has so far said it will not release them.

But sources close to the Ireland squad say the players, who have just returned from a national training session, badly want to play in the tournament and there were even suggestions that action by the club preventing the players turning out for Leinster, Munster and Ulster might affect their international prospects.

Now the Ireland team manager, Pat Whelan, has entered the fray and last night issued the following statement: ''The London Irish players on the Irish Senior International Panel are to attend a meeting with London Irish tomorrow to discuss their position regarding availability for the Irish Provincial sides in the forthcoming European Cup. ''

The Exiles are involved in the secondary European competition, the Conference, which their coach Clive Woodward does not regard as being paramount. But Harlequins said at the weekend that they will need the Ireland hooker Keith Wood and full-back Jim Staples for their own Euro campaign.

Saracens have adopted a compromise, saying they will release Paddy Johns for Ulster's two matches against Caledonia next Saturday and Neath on 26 October, but have pulled him out of the final fixture against French side Brive on 2 November because they require him for important club games after that. Bristol are unlikely to release Paul Burke and David Corkery, who are wanted by Munster in their group

Bath's European campaign has hit problems before it has even started with the news that their captain Phil de Glanville (knee ligaments) and scrum-half Andy Nicol (torn hamstring) will be out for three and six weeks respectively.

Meanwhile, Australia have dropped plans to turn their European tour this autumn into a grand slam by playing England. Although the Wallabies will include a match against Wales it has proved too difficult to find a slot for England.

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