Rugby Union: Cardiff's peace meal

Cardiff 48 Harlequins 20
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The Independent Online
IT HAS been a long and painful time coming but reconciliation is in the air in Cardiff. It is not yet time to hang the bunting from the roof of the burgeoning Millennium Stadium looming over the neighbouring club ground, but at least the Welsh Rugby Union and its rebel clubs Cardiff and Swansea are talking turkey again.

The WRU's four-man taskforce, including the national team manager, David Pickering, but not - perhaps significantly - International Board chairman Vernon Pugh, are due to meet with the recalcitrant pair next week. The confirmation in midweek of Llanelli and Pontypridd and two of the Union's "super-clubs" for preferential aid next season would seem to pave the way for Cardiff and Swansea to take up the remaining two nominations, but nothing is that simple in Wales these days.

Nevertheless, a welcome and necessary lead has been taken by the Wales coach, Graham Henry, aided no doubt by the feelgood factor stemming from the dramatic 34-33 victory in Paris. Henry helped get the Cardiff chief executive, Gareth Davies, and his Swansea counterpart, Roger Blyth, together with the WRU on Thursday and is thought to have spoken passionately to the Union's general committee in a plea for harmony.

The problems experienced by certain English clubs, and the imminence of the World Cup coming to Wales with all the opportunities that should follow, have clearly concentrated minds. The root causes of the rebels' withdrawal from the Welsh league have not gone away and, if they do return to the fold, those that did stay loyal to the Union will be more than a bit miffed. There is also the question of the pounds 500,000 of television money withheld from Cardiff, which they will be seeking if, as rumoured, Swansea are not forced to repay their share to the Union as part of any peace deal.

As has become customary, a goodly crowd filed into the Arms Park to see the latest unsanctioned friendly. Cardiff's attendances have averaged close to 8,000 and they have yet to lose a home fixture. Harlequins, who included the former England captain Will Carling from the start for the first time in 15 months, could not cope with the more expansive game Cardiff inflicted upon them after the home side had run down too many blind alleys during the first half. Wales wing Gareth Thomas scored two of Cardiff's seven tries and both he and the prop David Young came through the match to confirm their recovery from injury.

Cardiff: J Thomas; G Thomas, M Hall, M Wintle (L Botham, h-t), S Hill; L Jarvis (M Rayer, 65), R Jones; S John (A Lewis, 60), P Young, D Young (capt), J Tait (D Jones, 71), S Williams, G Kacala, J Ringer, E Lewis (O Williams, 60).

Harlequins: D Officer; J Bull (T Lacroix, 67), P Mensah, W Carling, J Keyter; R Liley, N Walshe (C Wright, 57); D Barnes, T Murphy (C Ridgway, h-t), R Nebett, T Collier, B Davison, S White-Cooper (R Nias, 57), R Jenkins, A Leach.

Referee: F Howard (Liverpool)

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