Rugby Union: England unhappy at 'pro-NZ' World Cup re-draw

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ENGLAND are up in arms - and will make a formal protest to the World Cup organisers - after the latest attempt at a draw for the 1995 tournament which has suddenly given them a quarter-final against either the host country, South Africa, or the holders, Australia, writes Steve Bale.

The top two seeds could thus meet two rounds before the final. Geoff Cooke, manager of the Lions in New Zealand but also of England, could scarcely believe it when an Auckland paper yesterday reported NZ 'delight' at the new draw for the 1995 pool matches.

As England are in with Western Samoa, a European qualifier and an American qualifier in the pool matches, they can reasonably expect to qualify on top. But the consequence is different now from what it was. In the original draw in January England's group winners would probably have gone on to meet Wales or Ireland. Then, after complaints by New Zealand, Samoa and Australia, the draw was revised in April, leaving England's likely quarter-final opponents as France or Scotland.

Still the New Zealanders were not satisfied - not with Australia or South Africa lined up, anyway - and now Rugby World Cup says that the second draw was deficient due to a printing error. RWC's statement is dated 20 May but emerged only yesterday, 10 days late.

'England will certainly stick some sort of protest in,' Cooke said in Christchurch last night. 'The whole thing is ridiculous. You get the impression that New Zealand have put pressure on for their own purposes. I don't understand the basis of New Zealand's original protest and I don't understand the basis of the change that's brought about this redraw or rehashed draw. It's incredibly arrogant to say that New Zealand are delighted because they will now meet South Africa or Australia in the semi-finals.'