Rugby Union roundup: Howarth's Welsh test

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The Independent Online
SHANE HOWARTH gave Welsh rugby a taste of what he might do for them at international level yesterday when he steered Sale to a 24-22 home victory over Swansea.

The 30-year-old New Zealand-born fly-half, who is qualified to play for Wales this season, kicked nine points as well as regularly spreading the ball wide to set up tries for the England squad wing Tom Beim, Matt Moore and Chris Yates.

Even though Sale led 24-14 at half-time, Swansea battled back after the interval with a second try from the Wales centre Scott Gibbs and a penalty from the fly-half Lee Davies. Earlier, Davies had converted Gibbs' first try and a penalty try.

The international future of Gibbs' British Lions team-mate, Keith Wood, is under a cloud following a breakdown in contract negotiations with the Irish RFU. Wood's solicitors claim their client has been told by the Ireland manager Donal Lenihan not to attend today's national squad gathering in Cork if he does not sign. The Harlequins hooker, who has been capped 17 times, may now not feature in either the forthcoming World Cup qualifying games with Georgia and Romania or the Test against world champions South Africa at the end of the month.

"The main point of contention in the contract for me has been the issue of my intellectual property rights," Wood said. "As the contract presently stands, both the IRFU and scheduled sponsors could use me or any player individually for whatever promotional activity they wish without my consent or without further remuneration.

"In a professional world, I find this unacceptable. For some players, this may not seem like a major issue, but with the huge world-wide exposure of the World Cup on the horizon, this issue could become far more pertinent."

Munster kept alive their hopes of advancement from Pool B of the European Cup with a hard-fought 13-5 win over Perpignan in Cork. Munster, who trail the Frenchmen by just one point, must now win in Padova on Wednesday and hope that Perpignan lose at home to Neath the following Sunday. Meanwhile, Neath saw off Padova 16-3 at the Gnoll yesterday with Geraint Evans socring the game's only try.

Fleetingly, there were hopes of an Irish double over French sides yesterday with Leinster 10-5 ahead at half-time at Begles-Bordeaux, but it was a different story after the interval as the French side rattled up 26 points without reply.

There was further Irish disappointment in Pool A of the European Shield as Connacht went down 39-8 at Caerphilly.

Exeter missed a chance to go third in Allied Dunbar Premiership Two when they were held 26-26 at Fylde.

Japan earned a place in the World Cup for the fourth time when they won the Asian Championship with a 47-7 success over Hong Kong in Singapore. Second-placed South Korea kept their hopes of qualifying alive by beating Taiwan 81-21.