Rugby Union: Skinner relishes Tigers meet

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE Pilkington Cup fourth round was no bore draw. Wasps travel to Bath later this month and Leicester, the holders, have to visit Mick Skinner's Blackheath. These were just two of a tasty looking selection served up yesterday at Twickenham when the big boys made their appearance on this season's Cup menu.

Mention food and Skinner's eyes usually light up, though his square meals in rugby have been limited of late to Third Division activity and helping steer Blackheath past Richmond and London Welsh in the last two Cup rounds. Now the England flanker and former Harlequin has the opportunity to sink his teeth into First Division Tigers.

'I love the idea of it,' he said yesterday. 'I play better against better sides. I don't know what the boys really wanted. Perhaps some would rather not face them, but this is a chance for the youngsters to play a top team. One thing, I'm immensely pleased we haven't drawn Quins.'

On 18 December, that fate befalls Basingstoke. 'At least they're only just down the road,' Arthur Williams, the Fifth Division club's chairman, said as he contemplated the trip to last season's beaten finalists. 'It's just a pity we couldn't have got them at home.' This will be Basingstoke's sixth Cup outing and 'the fourth time we've been drawn away', Williams said.

The sympathy vote, though, has to go to Wasps in the only all-First Division tie. Having lost at home to Bath in the League in October, an away-day at the Rec has to be the worst possible start to a campaign. It left Don Wills, Wasps fixtures secretary, putting on a brave face. 'It'll be hard for both sides,' he said. 'It is without question the draw of the round.'

Yesterday's other business concerned the anticipated announcement that the Rugby Football Union has decided to press ahead and bring its old West Stand at Twickenham into line with its new East. Costing pounds 25.5m it will provide a further 25,000 all-seated capacity and bring the total number of seats at the stadium to 75,000. Completion is planned for November 1995.

Tony Stanger, the Scotland and Hawick wing, replaces England's Tony Underwood in the Barbarians side who provide the All Blacks with their send-off at Cardiff on Saturday. Underwood has an ankle injury.