Rugby Union: English keep the others guessing

THE IRISH, it seems, are in - along with the Scots and most of the Welsh. The only people we now have to worry about are the English, who wanted to be in this time last month but are now determined to stay out at least until the end of October. As for Cardiff and Swansea, they have no intention of coming in from the outside unless their English allies opt for life on the inside. Does that make sense? Good. Maybe things are getting clearer on the British league front.

Delegates from the four home unions gathered in Manchester on Tuesday for the first meeting of a working party set up to examine the feasibility of a new cross-border tournament pulling together the best from every corner of the British Isles. They unanimously agreed that such a competition was the way forward and that the Irish provinces, who were rather neglected when the idea was first floated in August, should be fully involved. Had the English clubs not boycotted the discussion, northern hemisphere rugby might be celebrating.

Glanmor Griffiths, the chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, was asked to double up by chairing the working party as well and he promptly recorded his disappointment at the absence of the English clubs from the negotiating table. Considering Griffiths had recently ruled out any possibility of playing contact with those self-same Englishmen while they continued to test governing body regulations through the European Commission, his remarks merely reinforced rugby's leading role in professional sport's theatre of the absurd.

Still, Griffiths cut no more absurd a figure than those hard-liners among the English clubs who between them had managed to concoct a public relations disaster with their intemperate anti-British league comments at the weekend. The more dovish elements on the board of English First Division Rugby, the pressure group representing the 14 Allied Dunbar Premiership One clubs, were attempting to repair the damage yesterday by distancing themselves from remarks by Mike Smith, the Saracens chief executive, and Sir John Hall, the Newcastle owner.

There will, of course, be no meaningful or commercially sustainable British and Irish league without the English, just as their absence removes all meaning from the European Cup that kicked off, emasculated and unsponsored, in Belfast last Friday. A degree of new financial support has belatedly been secured, however, and the details will be revealed in Dublin before tomorrow evening's Pool A fixture between Leinster and Stade Francais.

It seemed clear yesterday that Heineken, who pumped some pounds 10m into the first three years of the competition, had finally been jettisoned as major backers. "We haven't had any word from the tournament organisers but if they're making an announcement of new money before the weekend, I think it's safe to assume we're not involved," said a Heineken spokesman.

Other potential sponsors include Mark McCormack's International Management Group and a Swiss-based sports marketing company, ISL. Whatever the outcome, the Heineken Cup appears to be an ex-tournament; a sad, squalid end to something very special.

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?