RUGBY UNION: Scots hit back at O'Neill's claims

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The Independent Online
THE SCOTTISH Rugby Union has responded to suggestions that it linked up with its Welsh counterparts to free Jason Jones-Hughes to play for the Principality. Jones-Hughes was selected by the Wales coach, Graham Henry, as part of his initial World Cup squad last week despite having played for the Australian Barbarians against Scotland last summer.

John O'Neill, of the Australian Rugby Union, claimed the Scots had written to the International Rugby Board, saying Jones-Hughes could play for Wales. Under complicated IRB regulations, a player is deemed to have "represented" a country if he has either played for a national side, or an official second-string national side, against an equivalent team from a different country.

However, after being asked by the IRB for its observations, the SRU claims the touring team that turned out against the Australian Barbarians - who are the Wallabies' official second team - did not conform to the regulations.

O'Neill argued that if the team the Barbarians played against were not one of Scotland's top two sides then who were they? "They brought out the best players who were available for the tour. How could it not be their first or second-string side?" he said.

However, the SRU responded by claiming it is the IRB regulations which, by omission, dictate that the second-string team of any country is determined by the name of the side taking the field, which in Scotland's case is the A team.

Because the match was not a full international and their team was chosen from the entire touring squad, the SRU feels the team that faced the Barbarians cannot be officially recognised as a second team.

New Zealand officials said they may consider using minders to keep leading players out of trouble following a weekend nightclub incident in the Australian capital, Canberra.

New Zealand A team management today confirmed three players - All Blacks Craig Innes, Carlos Spencer and Walter Little - were held briefly by police after a dispute in a club in Canberra in the early hours of Sunday. The players had been celebrating their victory over the ACT Brumbies in Canberra.

The team manager, Tony Bedford, said: "We've spoken to them individually and as a group. They're claiming that there was no major altercation. One player had been punched and that was the end of the story."

Winger Jonah Lomu was relegated to New Zealand's reserves for Saturday's opening Tri-Nations championship match against South Africa despite scoring two tries in the A side's win against Canberra's ACT Brumbies at the weekend.

NEW ZEALAND: (v South Africa, at Dunedin, 10 July): J Wilson; C Cullen, A Ieremia, D Gibson, T Umaga; A Mehrtens, J Marshall; C Hoeft, A Oliver, K Meeuws, N Maxwell, R Brooke, A Blowers, J Kronfeld, T Randell (capt).

SOUTH AFRICA: P Montgomery; B Paulse, P Muller, P Rossouw, J Mulder; G du Toit, D von Hoesslin; O du Randt, N Drotske, C Visagie, M Andrews, K Otto, C Krige, A Venter, G Teichmann (capt).