Rugby Union: Leicester and Quins games off

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The Independent Online
Bristol and Saracens have called off tomorrow's Courage League One games against Leicester and the leaders, Harlequins, respectively after being asked by the Rugby Football Union to release their Irish international players.

Northampton, however, have decided not to seek the postponement of their sell-out game with Bath, even though they will be without four internationals.

Bristol's Paul Burke and David Corkery, plus the Saracens trio Paddy Johns, Paul and Richard Wallace, are required for an Irish training camp leading up to next Tuesday's Test against Western Samoa at Lansdowne Road in which Va'aiga Tuigamala will resume his international union career after a three-year break.

London Irish's home game against Wasps had already been rearranged for 16 November, while Second Division Newcastle won a postponement of Rotherham's trip to Kingston Park due to calls on Nick Popplewell and Ross Nesdale.

There is nothing quite like a barbed comment or two from back home to weld a touring side together. John Eales and his inexperienced band of new age Wallabies play Scotland at Murrayfield tomorrow in the first stage of their quest for a Celtic Triple Crown, and they will almost certainly draw collective strength from the latest outburst of high-profile domestic derision.

The Queensland coach, John Connolly, went on television in Australia on Wednesday to voice his concern over a "divided squad" who, apparently, were "living in an atmosphere of fear". Besides embarrassing Eales, who captained Queensland and worked closely with Connolly throughout last summer's Super-12 tournament, the comments also put the national coach, Greg Smith, in an even more determined state of mind. The Scots may yet have cause to wish Connolly had kept his opinions to himself.

"It's not hard to work out what is happening," Smith fumed. "These sorts of comments come from people who fail to get the Wallaby coaching job. It's just so irritating. A few people with access to the media are trying to destabilise the camp by spreading lies and untruths. I wish they would support the team instead." Characteristically, Eales was content to play down the issue but said ominously: "This could work for us as much as against us."

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