Rugby Union: Conflict of interest threatens Barbarians

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BARBARIAN selection for the end-of-tour match against Australia at Twickenham on 28 November will be under unprecedented pressure from domestic demands on players in each of the home unions. So much so that the invitation club will have to invite more foreigners than ever.

On the same day England's leading clubs come into the Pilkington Cup at the third-round stage, there is a full Heineken League First Division programme in Wales, and Scottish and Irish rugby will be focused on provincial and district competitions.

This is bound to restrict the choice, but even so Geoffrey Windsor Lewis, the Baa-Baas' secretary, remains optimistic of fielding a side commensurate with the world-champion opposition they will face. In the past the Barbarians have tended be of Lions strength on such occasions.

'The indications we have had are that quite a lot of players, home and overseas, would like to be on the field,' Lewis said. Among those being touted is the immediate past Wallaby captain, Nick Farr-Jones, who will be following the tour as a broadcaster.

'As always, all the players we have contacted want to play for us if they are not required by the clubs,' Lewis added. It would, therefore, be helpful if the likes of Bath and Harlequins were given soft Pilkington ties that day.

'I am keen to give home players the chance of this big match first, but there seems likely to be a higher proportion of players from outside Britain and Ireland than in previous Barbarian fixtures against major touring teams.'

Scottish Amicable, the insurance group which has sponsored the Barbarians for three years, yesterday extended its support with an annual pounds 165,000 over the next three years, and will put pounds 100,000 into the Barbarian-Australia match, which is already sold out. The deals are part of the company's pounds 1.75m investment in rugby over 10 years.

In Edinburgh yesterday, the directors of Rugby World Cup announced the format for the World Sevens next spring. Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and England are the top four seeded teams in the draw for rugby's World Cup sevens, announced in Edinburgh yesterday. The 24-team tournament will take place at Murrayfield from 16 to 18 April, with around eight hours of play daily.

WORLD SEVENS (Murrayfield, 16-18 April): Pool A: Fiji, South Africa, Wales, Romania, Japan, Latvia. Pool B: New Zealand, France, Ireland, Korea, United States, Netherlands. Pool C: Australia, Scotland, Argentina, Italy, Tonga, Taiwan. Pool D: England, Western Samoa, Canada, Namibia, Spain, Hong Kong.

Two top teams go forward to two quarter-final pools for the Melrose Cup competition. Third- placed sides contest a semi-final knock-out competition for the Plate and fourth-placed teams compete for the Bowl.