Rugby Union : Leicester axe Richards

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The former England No 8 Dean Richards and his international colleague, Rory Underwood, have been dropped for Leicester's re-arranged Pilkington Cup sixth-round match away against the holders, Bath, at the weekend. The pair appear to have paid the price for the Tigers' European Cup final defeat against Brive 10 days ago.

Underwood, replaced on the wing by Leon Lloyd, has been axed already this season, but this is the first time in a 14-year career, incorporating 297 games, that Richards, 33 and the captain this season, has been dropped. Bob Dwyer, Leicester's director of rugby, feels Ireland's Eric Miller could not be ignored.

Richards was not surprised: "We have five or six outstanding back-row players, so it was inevitable that something like this would happen," he said. "Eric has been playing outstandingly well for Leicester and Ireland, so he has to be given a chance."

Italy will seek an explanation from the Five Nations committee after being told their application to join the Championship is on hold for at least two more years. The Italian Federation chairman Giancarlo Dondi said: "I want to know in what sense Italy is inadequate - there are currently 30,000 rugby players in Italy," he said.

France will be missing the stand-off Alain Penaud against Wales in Paris on 15 February. The Brive captain injured his ankle in the European Cup final.

The Rugby Football Union president John Richardson was joined yesterday by Donald Kerr, chairman of First Division Rugby, and Wakefield's Robin Foster, chairman of Second Division Rugby, as signatories to the agreement with Epruc which ends their year-long feud.

ENGLAND TRAINING SQUAD (World Cup Sevens, Hong Kong, March): Backs: N Beal (Northampton), A Adebayo (Bath), W Greenwood (Leicester), A Healey (Leicester), M Catt (Bath), J Sleightholme (Bath), P Sampson (Wasps), D Scully (Wakefield), M Dawson (Northampton), N Greenstock (Wasps), J Naylor (Orrell), S Roiser (Wasps), R Hitchmough (Orrell). Forwards: C Sheasby (Wasps), L Dallaglio (Wasps, capt), N Back (Leicester), T Rodber (Northampton), R Hill (Saracens), R Jenkins (Harlequins), P Scrivener (Wasps), M Corry (Bristol).