Rugby Union: Howley calls for Welsh unity

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ROB HOWLEY yesterday appealed for an end to the dispute which has riven domestic rugby in Wales and ostracised their premier clubs Cardiff and Swansea, forcing them to participate in an unsanctioned series of friendly matches against English clubs.

"We need a unified game in Wales and hopefully we saw the start of that in Paris on Saturday," Howley said. "But it's only a start. This has been going on for the last 18 months and the players and the supporters have had a gutful with all the in-fighting. I think this is the best time to sort it out, prior to a summer tour of Argentina and then the Rugby World Cup."

The Welsh Rugby Union has imposed a fine of pounds 150,000 on each of the two rebels, whose refusal to pay has left them facing possible expulsion from the Swalec Cup and ultimately even from the union.

The WRU committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow to decide on further disciplinary action but Howley, who plays for Cardiff, said: "I just hope it can be resolved. I don't know whether Cardiff and Swansea will be expelled. I'd hope not. The two clubs are steeped in history.

"At the moment there's a number of international players playing for the respective clubs and [their loss] would be detrimental to Wales international chances in the future.

"I would rather they came out with some sort of agreement, whether that means Cardiff and Swansea return to the WRU fold is something that has to be sorted out, but sooner, rather than later."

There was no trace of the feel-good factor at Leicester following Austin Healey's disciplinary hearing on Monday at which his club ban of three weeks was extended by a further five and ruled him out of the rest of the Five Nations' Championship. The Tigers said they were considering an appeal.

Yesterday David Jenkins became the third major off-field departure at Bath in less than a year when he resigned from his post as sales director. Jenkins follows non-executive chairman Tony Swift and former marketing chief Stephen Hands out of the West Country club's offices.

Wigan Rugby League club have dropped their threat to take out a winding- up order against Newcastle Falcons after they paid their latest pounds 150,000 instalment towards the pounds 750,000 transfer fee for Va'aiga Tuigamala.