Rugby Union: Andrew's threat ensures postponement

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The Independent Online
Rob Andrew was not exactly renowned for his gambler's instinct during the decade he spent in the England team, but he has acquired a mean line in brinkmanship since falling under the influence of Sir John Hall at Newcastle, writes Chris Hewett. Yesterday his latest venture into the risk business paid healthy dividends when his club's fixture with Rotherham was postponed from this weekend until March.

Andrew had threatened to withdraw six of his players from international and representative duty this weekend after Rotherham insisted that the League Two match between the two sides should go ahead as planned on Saturday.

With two Newcastle players, Gary Armstrong and Doddie Weir, in the Scotland squad for the Test with Australia, two more in the A squad who face the Junior Springboks on Friday, and another couple required for an Irish session in advance of the match with Western Samoa next Tuesday, Andrew forced the situation by pulling rank.

That led to some hurried discussions at national level and, according to a spokesman for the English professional clubs organisation (Epruc), the debate went all the way to the International Board, who sanctioned a fixture deferment. It now seems likely that Newcastle's home game with Richmond, the other favourites for promotion to League One, will be shifted from its current 18 January date because players from both sides are likely to be involved in the opening round of the Five Nations' Championship.

Meanwhile, Epruc officials will meet tomorrow to discuss setting up a fund for members most at risk from the bank manager. The political stand- off between Epruc and the Rugby Football Union has delayed the signing of a multi-million pound broadcasting deal with BSkyB and has left several of the more vulnerable clubs staring into a financial black hole. Representatives from the richer outfits - Newcastle, Harlequins, Bath and Richmond among them - are likely to be asked to bail out the smaller fry with loans of up to pounds 200,000.

Rory Jenkins, the uncapped Harlequins flanker, has been called into the England squad for tomorrow's training session at Bisham Abbey.

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