At the centre of the dispute between Richmond and the Welsh Rugby Union is the timing of an operation on the Wales and Lions centre's nose. Richmond have booked Bateman in for surgery on 3 June, the day after Rob Howley's party heads for Zimbabwe. The Union is poised to invoke International Rugby Boad regulations on availability in an attempt to get the operation put back until after the tour.
While the two sides continued to debate the matter, Bateman is resigned to packing his bags and heading to hospital next week, rather than going on tour. "I'm caught in the middle of all of this. Richmond say I have got to have the operation done and until they can agree with the WRU that it can be put off I will have to go ahead with the club's plans," Bateman said.
"The problem at Richmond is that two centres have retired and two more are on the long- term injury list. They want me to be available for the start of the season and there is no way that can happen if the operation is put off until Wales return." Neil Jenkins and Scott Gibbs are also missing the tour due to long-term injuries.
The depleted England squad fly to Brisbane tonight for the first leg of their gruelling tour, which features Tests against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Despite the absentee list, the coach, Clive Woodward, remains positive.
"We will conduct ourselves in an absolutely professional manner - we should be able to put out two competitive teams in terms of midweek and Saturday," Woodward said. "During this tour, we will really find out who's who, and I'll be pleased if we can return home with four or five players who demand to be in future England squads.
"There has been a lot of media coverage about the guys who aren't going but, for those who are, they have an opportunity to make claims for the World Cup next year."Reuse content