Rugby Union: Welsh deal reaches new parts

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The Independent Online
AS AN example of the dichotomy between what rugby union is raking in and its leading practitioners are not taking out, yesterday's announcement by the brewers Heineken of a massive reinvestment in its Welsh National League was perfect.

Heineken is breaking new ground by contributing pounds 15,000 a year for three years into the Welsh International Players' Trust, a Welsh Rugby Union device for assisting internationals to maximise their earnings from 'non-rugby-related' activities. It is partly a straight donation and partly payment for promotional work that will be required of the Wales squad.

It also pales into insignificance alongside the pounds 2.1m, backed by a further pounds 1m in media and promotional support, with which the Heineken League will be sponsored during the three seasons from 1993 to 1996. This compares with pounds 1.65m for the three seasons up to and including the one just starting and, bearing in mind that the Welsh League consists of only 48 clubs (up from 40), compares very favourably for the WRU with Courage's last three-year investment in the English League, which has more than 1,100 clubs - pounds 2.1m.

Now all the Welsh need is a backer of their cup competition to succeed Schweppes and Denis Evans, the WRU secretary, said yesterday that a deal was possible within three weeks. The union is seeking to tie contributions to the players' trust into all its sponsorship deals.

Heineken's annual payment, pounds 600,000 this season, will continue to increase by pounds 50,000 a year as it has since the sponsorship began in 1990. The recession may be biting elsewhere, but evidently not here. Paul Vaughan, sponsorship director of the parent company, Whitbread, said that the market share of his product in Wales had risen substantially since the league's launch.

England's squad for the Harlequins Sevens at The Stoop on Sunday has been bolstered by Will Carling, Jeremy Guscott and Nick Beal. Nick who? Beal was last season's High Wycombe stand-off and is now challenging for a place at centre with Northampton, for whom he impressed when the Saints went further than England in last Saturday's Selkirk Sevens. Carling and Guscott, by the way, are the current England centres.

Casting around for adequate reserves, Scotland include five players - Wyllie, Jardine, Derek Patterson, Macdonald and Turnbull - left out of the summer tour to Australia in their A team to play Spain in Madrid on Saturday week. This is effectively a second team bolstered by one or two first-teamers, among them Paul Burnell, whose switch to loose-head prop makes him David Sole's potential successor.

ENGLAND SQUAD (for Harlequins Sevens, Sunday): T Underwood (Leicester), J Guscott (Bath), W Carling (Harlequins), N Beal (Northampton), D Morris (Orrell), I Hunter, T Rodber (Northampton), C Sheasby (Harlequins), J Cassell (Saracens).

SCOTLAND A (v Spain, Madrid, 12 September): K Logan (Stirling Co); D Stark (Boroughmuir), G Townsend (Gala), I Jardine (Stirling Co), M Moncrieff (Gala); D Wyllie (Stewart's-Melville FP), D Patterson (Edinburgh Academicals); P Burnell (London Scottish), I Corcoran (Gala), A Watt (Glasgow High / Kelvinside), C Gray (Nottingham, capt), A Macdonald (Heriot's FP), D Turnbull (Hawick), G Weir (Melrose), A Roxburgh (Kelso). Replacements: C Glasgow (Heriot's FP), D Caskie (Gloucester), G Oliver (Hawick), D Jackson (Edinburgh Academicals), G Isaac (Gala), M Scott (Edinburgh Academicals).

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