Rugby Union: Wakefield draw short straw in Pilkington Cup

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The Independent Online
BATH having been washed out by Waterloo, the club all the Pilkington Cup survivors wanted to avoid in yesterday's fourth-round draw at Twickenham was Harlequins, the only other cup winners of the past nine seasons. Commiserations, then, to Wakefield.

The Yorkshire side will travel to The Stoop on 23 January in the knowledge that, however dismal Quins' league form, they always get their dander up for the cup - as Blackheath, 72 points put past them last Sunday, would testify.

Waterloo - away, but not very far away, to Orrell - have done everyone else a favour by beating Bath 9-8; now the rest would be glad if Wakefield could also oblige. 'You always have to say that Bath are the one side we all always want to avoid,' Colin Herridge, the Quins secretary, said. 'Now that they are out, we all had a much better feeling about this draw.'

He should know, Harlequins having lost last season's final to Bath to Stuart Barnes's last-kick drop goal. It was the seventh time Bath had won it since 1984, Quins intruding on this success by winning the finals of 1988 and 1991. Bath's only consolation now is that 10 of their players are in the South-West team to play the North on Saturday - but, knowing what their players think of divisional rugby, it is really no consolation whatsoever.

As for Harlequins' next opponents, Waterloo's unlikely success has set them the right type of example. 'Someone has to play them and, remembering what Waterloo did to Bath, we know we have a chance in any one-off match,' Jim Coulson, the Wakefield secretary, said.

The draw was remarkable for throwing up five derbies in eight ties. Among them, Exeter at Redruth ensures the Third Division a quarter-finalist. Saracens will play Wasps at home in the league a fortnight before visiting Sudbury in this round's only all- First Division match.

This is the last season under the present format before an increase from 76 to 96 participants and the addition of an extra round to accommodate the automatic entry of the 26 members of the new Fifth Divisions North and South to be established when home and away league fixtures are instituted next season.

These, plus 30 entrants from county competitions, will start in the first round, with Third and Fourth Division clubs coming into the second round and the 24 second-round winners playing in a third round to produce 12 qualifiers for the fourth round along with the First and Second Division clubs.

All of which had come as news to Pilkington, who were not best pleased at the lack of consultation by the Rugby Football Union - even though in theory the cup's expansion makes it an even more attractive sponsorship proposition.

Pilkington is also concerned at a plan put to it by the RFU to hold the final of the Provincial Insurance Cup (the knock-out competition for the 512 lowest clubs in the league) as a curtain-raiser to the Pilkington Cup final, and will say as much when they meet union representatives on 22 December.

'The clash of finals is not ideal for Pilkington,' Tony Cove, the company's spokesman at the draw, said. 'The final is established as a Pilkington day and clearly we would rather it remained that way.'

PILKINGTON CUP Fourth Round: West Hartlepool v Morley; Nottingham v Leicester; Waterloo v Orrell; Harlequins v Wakefield; Redruth v Exeter; Northampton v Newcastle Gosforth; Rugby v Moseley; Wasps v Saracens. Ties to be played 23 January.

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