Rugby Union: Ireland and Wales tour plans progress

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The Independent Online
THE departure of Louis Luyt as president of the South Africa Rugby Football Union means that Ireland and Wales can step up their planning for their tours to the Republic.

Ireland are scheduled to kick-off a seven-match trip against Boland in Wellington in 19 days' time and it culminates with Tests against the Springboks at Bloemfontein (13 June) and Pretoria (20 Jun).

Wales' proposed five-game visit overlaps with Ireland's tour, their opponents including Natal, Gauteng Falcons and the Emerging Springboks. They then face South Africa in Pretoria on 27 June, while England are scheduled to play one Test in Cape Town on 4 July after their tour of Australia and New Zealand.

An Irish Rugby Football Union spokesman said the way seemed clear for Ireland's tour of South Africa to go ahead."In the absence of any official communication to the contrary we can only assume that the tour is still on. We plan to leave in two weeks as originally planned," said John Redmond of the IRFU's media consultants. He added: "We will be seeking clarification from the relevant bodies this week."

The party for England's tour, starting later this month, to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa seems certain to be without the captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, and the British Lions captain, Martin Johnson. It will be named tomorrow.

The Newcastle prop Paul Van-Zandvliet is set to play against Bath tonight, despite allegations that he bit British Lion Neil Back. The 17-stone Geordie, who has emphatically denied the allegation, is being investigated by his club after last Monday's rumbustious Allied Dunbar Premiership victory over Leicester.

Roy Manock, who heads the Rugby Football Union's disciplinary panel, is monitoring developments, and Van-Zandvliet could still face a disrepute charge. If Twickenham took matters further, then Van-Zandvliet would follow his Falcons team-mates Nick Popplewell and Dean Ryan, who were both banned last year for punching.

"We are continuing our investigations, and I have informed Roy Manock of that," said Newcastle's rugby director, Rob Andrew. "Our own video of the alleged incident is inconclusive - we are waiting for further video coverage of the game, which has yet to be supplied by Sky."

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