Rugby Union: Professional game lures Barbarians to France next year

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THE calculating side of professional rugby has reached slyly out to one of the last outposts of amateurism. After lifting the Middlesex Sevens title for the second year running the Barbarians secretary, Geoff Windsor- Lewis, revealed that they were almost certain to attend the Air France Sevens in preference to the domestic one next May.

That could be a severe blow to an archaic tournament which cannot compete with the pay-for-play philosophy, even though a working party has been set up by the organisers to try to revamp the one-time traditional end of season thrash.

"We are in hot water with the Air France organisers for not taking part this year," explained Windsor-Lewis after his side had handed over the bulk of their pounds 50,000 winnings to charity following their exciting 38- 21 victory over an inexperienced, but feisty and talented Leicester side in the final. "But we felt that having won last year's tournament we were honour-bound to return this year and defend our title."

The clash could well be avoided come the Millennium if a plan by the working party meets with approval. They are expected to propose that the event moves to August and comprises top sides in the world as they bid to become the Northern Hemisphere equivalent of the Hong Kong Sevens; interestingly, that is the precise aim of the French beano, which has been going for two years, some 71 years fewer than the Middlesex festival.

Before all that takes place England will have taken part in the Commonwealth Games later this year.

Having originally decided not to send a team the Rugby Football Union was persuaded into an about-turn by Chris Smith, the Minister for Culture, Media and Heritage to send a team after all.

It's a shame England will be unable to call on Fijian Taniela Qauqau. He was the star of the day scoring four tries in the final for a total of eight in the tournament and displaying prodigious skills, as did his three other countrymen, all of them drawn from the Baravi club in Fiji. The Baa-baas pulled a similar stunt last year, using Fijian resources, but since they are the acknowledged Kings of Sevens and the world champions it is no surprise. But home talent also gave a good account of themselves, Leicester's Geordan Murphy is no slouch and London Welsh's James Storey, who scored a hat-trick on the way to the Exiles winning the Plate competition, looked a classy player.

Barbarians: Tries Qauqau 4, Flockhart, Scully; Conversions Kiliraki 4. Leicester: Penalty tries Barlow, Moody, Murphy; Conversions Roke 2, Murphy 2.

Barbarians: T Qauqau (Fiji), D Stark (Glasgow Hawks), rep A Bose (Fiji)), K Kiliraki (Fiji), D Scully (Wakefield, capt), G Flockhart (Sirling Co), D Eves (Coventry), S Nawaui (Fiji). Replacements: A Bose (Fiji) for Stark; P Buxton (Moseley) for Flockhart.

Leicester: M Briggs, G Murphy; D Roke, T Barlow, O Wingham, L Moody, D Addison. Replacements: S Read for Briggs; R Edwards for Barlow.

Referee: T Miller.

Results: First round: Saracens 31 Rosslyn Park 12; Sale 0 Wasps 33; Leicester 35 Nottingham 7; Reading 12 Emerging London Broncos 38; Kenya 24 Chichester Inst of HE 5; Gloucester 26 London Nigerian 10; Harlequins 26 Northampton 14; London Welsh 19 Barbarians 24. Quarter finals: Saracens 26 Wasps 21; Leicester 31 Emerging London Broncos 0; Kenya 33 Gloucester 7; Harlequins 17 Barbarians 38. Semi-finals: Saracens 14 Leicester 26; Kenya 14 Barbarians 33. Final: Leicester 28 Barbarians 38.

Plate final: Rosslyn Park 12 London Welsh 21.