Rugby Union: Clubs oppose slimmer elite

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ROTHERHAM AND Worcester, the leading Second Division clubs, are threatening legal action against the possible reduction in size of Premiership One.

The recent merger of London Irish, Richmond and London Scottish has cut the top flight from 14 to 12 clubs and rugby officials have indicated they may not replace the two clubs lost to the unification. But Rotherham and Worcester are opposed to any such changes and have brought in solicitors to act on their behalf. They point to the Mayfair Agreement, signed in June 1998, which stipulates there must be 14 clubs in each division. It also specifies that one year's notice should be given of any proposed changes to the structure. Rotherham and Worcester intend to bring an action for breach of contract.

David Young, the Welsh international prop, has been reappointed as captain of Cardiff for the millennium season. Cardiff have also added two players to their squad, with the scrum-half Kevin Ellis transferring from Sale, and the former Harlequins prop Alan Yates adding his 18st bulk to the front row.

Matthew Burke has been named in the Australian team to play South Africa in Brisbane next weekend. Burke, who is on the mend after shoulder surgery at the end of last season, showed he was fast returning to his best by scoring 23 points in the Australian Barbarians' 33-24 defeat of New Zealand A last Saturday.

The Wallabies coach, Rod Macqueen, confirmed the full-back would replace Chris Latham after proving his return to form and full fitness. But Macqueen has delayed naming the rest of his starting side until today due to injury concerns.

France have named a provisional World Cup squad without a recognised full-back, dropping Jean-Luc Sadourny. The French have also dropped the flanker Philippe Benetton and scrum-half Fabien Galthie, members of the side that finished third in South Africa four years ago.

FRANCE WORLD CUP SQUAD: Backs: C Dominici, O Sarramea, X Garbajosa, P Bernat-Salles, J Marlu, S Glas, E Ntamack, R Dourthe, C Lamaison, C Desbrosses, T Castaignede, U Mola, P Carbonneau, P Mignoni. Forwards: T Lievremont, C Juillet, O Magne, M Lievremont, A Costes, L Mallier, A Benazzi, O Brouzet, F Pelous, D Auradou, C Califano, F Tournaire, C Soulette, P Devilliers, R Ibanez (capt), M Dal Maso.