Rugby Union: Cup draw has big guns pointing head to head

Michael Lynagh may be able to control a rugby ball better than virtually anyone in the world, but when it comes to picking numbered balls out of a hat he is just as susceptible to the fates as the rest of us. Australia's former captain not only gave his club, Saracens, a Pilkington Cup headache yesterday but inflicted a similar condition on almost every other team with a realistic chance of reaching Twickenham in May.

Lynagh spared only one of the Cup favourites in concocting the most competitive sixth-round draw imaginable - Harlequins, 5-2 front runners for the knockout title, will visit rank outsiders Rotherham on 25 January. Most of the remaining ties will be pure theatre. After pairing Sarries with their north London neighbours Wasps, Lynagh wreaked havoc by sending Leicester to Bath for a repeat of last season's final, Bristol to Gloucester and Sale to Orrell. Not even Northampton will feel confident at home to Derek Eves' awkward squad from League Two, Coventry, in a Midlands derby.

With two all-Second Division ties, a couple of dark horses are certain to make the quarter-finals. Newcastle, a real danger if their demolition of West Hartlepool last Sunday was anything to go by, will expect to see off London Scottish while Wakefield, who gave Bath a torrid time at the last-16 stage last season, should pack too much attacking weaponry for Moseley.

Bath-Leicester is a certain sell-out, but there is a degree of doubt over the date. If the Tigers beat Toulouse in the Heineken European Cup semi-final at Welford Road on Saturday week, the final, scheduled for 25 January, will force a postponement. Bath, already beaten by the Midlanders in the league this season, have lost only one home Cup tie in 12 years - against Leicester in 1991.

There will be every bit as much venom at Kingsholm, especially as Gloucester and Bristol have been thrown together in a life or death battle against relegation. Yesterday's announcement by the Rugby Football Union that four sides will disappear automatically through the trap-door at the end of the season rather than three, as originally agreed, has left the traditional West Country giants vulnerable to the unthinkable.

Predictably, neither club was inclined to send seasonal greetings to the RFU yesterday. Alan Davies, the Bristol coach, described the decision as "barmy" and claimed it would damage the development of rugby in England while his counterpart at Gloucester, Richard Hill, dug deeper into the dictionary and came out with "disgusting". Hill, an England A coach this season, accused the RFU of kowtowing to big-money clubs in the Second Division who have been lobbying hard for two promotion places.

Worryingly from the point of view of club solidarity, the Leicester chief executive Peter Wheeler yesterday came down firmly behind Gloucester and Bristol, arguing that any change to the relegation rules should have been jointly discussed by representatives of both the governing body and the clubs.

At least the Welsh appear to have solved their differences. Referees who staged an unprecedented strike last weekend and effectively wiped out the entire senior league programme yesterday accepted a revised pay package from the Welsh Rugby Union. They will now be paid on a sliding scale backdated to late August, with First Division fixtures commanding a pounds 125 fee.

PILKINGTON CUP Sixth-round draw: Saracens v Wasps; Rotherham v Harlequins;Bath v Leicester; Wakefield v Moseley; Gloucester v Bristol; London Scottish v Newcastle; Northampton v Coventry; Orrell v Sale (Ties to be played on Saturday, 25 January).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border