RFU set to sign deal with senior clubs

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The Rugby Football Union last night took what appeared to be a decisive step in ending the year-long dispute with its senior clubs by backing its president, John Richardson, and accepting a peace deal guaranteeing teams from the top two divisions of the Courage League a major say in the management of their own affairs. Details of the voting at the end of a three-hour discussion at Twickenham were not released but a formal signing of the agreement was planned for tomorrow.

It now remains to be seen whether Cliff Brittle, the RFU executive chairman who has been opposed to the deal, goes ahead with his threat to call a Special General Meeting.

His opponents fear he will though Charles Levison, the senior Wasps committee man who negotiated the deal on behalf of the clubs, did not appear too troubled. "This is wonderful news," he said. "It's a huge relief to everyone with the best interests of the game at heart."

Newcastle have signed the Western Samoa World Cup captain and No 8 Pat Lam on a two and a half year contract. His work permit has already come through and he will be available to play against Rugby next week.

n Lawrence Dallaglio will lead England's bid to defend their World Cup Sevens title in Hong Kong between 21-23 March. Dallaglio was in the team that won the event at Murrayfield four years ago.

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