Rugby Union: Rebels find cause for optimism

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The Independent Online
IT WOULD be too simple. For a start it would involve dismounting from high horses, swallowing pride and shoving principles to one side. But it would save a lot of parties a huge amount of financial trouble and stress in the work place.

Cardiff and Swansea, the rebellious Welsh clubs, have come up with the perfect solution to untangle the Gordian Knot which is tying up the Welsh and English Rugby Unions, the International Board and the 14 Premiership clubs.

The root cause of a lot of the troubles is the as yet unsanctioned Anglo- Welsh series of matches. The RFU is saying that, if six-figure IB fines are handed out, it will be the cash-strapped clubs who will have to cough up. But if Swansea and Cardiff's suggestion is adopted it could be solved at one stroke.

"The problem is that the IB can object to these games because they are not approved by the WRU or RFU," said Swan-sea's chairman, Geoff Atherton. "If they gave their blessing then the matches would have a legitimacy and the IB would not need to be involved."

Cardiff's chief executive, Gareth Davies, concurred, saying: "The charge is that Cardiff and Swansea have breached regulations. If the WRU opts to sanction those matches then we would not be in breach of anyone's regulations."

The WRU has fined each of the two rebels pounds 150,000 for playing the English clubs; the IB is withholding pounds 60,000 of RFU grants for not taking action against the Premiership clubs for playing the fixtures, with the threat of bigger fines to come.

Richard Hill, the Gloucester director of rugby, has given an unequivocal rebuttal to suggestions of a return to his troubled old club, Bath, as coach in place of his former team-mate Andy Robinson, reportedly under pressure to resign.

Hill said: "No one from Bath has said anything to me. But in any event there is absolutely no chance of me returning."

There will be some movement in the new year, however, when the Welsh Rugby Union's Challenge Trophy gets under way. The WRU has invested pounds 500,000 to fly in eight teams, including three South African provincial sides. There will also be three national teams, Canada, Romania and Namibia, as well as the two Scottish Super Districts, Glasgow Caledonians and Edinburgh Reivers.

They will be competing against the eight Welsh Premier Division clubs, with the 16 teams being split into two pools.