Cardiff look set to claim victory in battle for Jones

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Cardiff appear to have won the contest for Stephen Jones' signature. The Blues are believed to have persuaded the Wales fly-half to join them next season with the offer of a £750,000 three-year contract.

Jones, 28, who has 51 Welsh caps, had been in talks with Cardiff in the last month; then on Monday this week he spoke with the Llanelli chairman, Huw Evans, and for 24 hours the talk around the town was that he would be rejoining his old club.

On Tuesday, though, with Llanelli officials trying in vain to make contact with Jones, the Clermont-Auvergne outside-half was being spoken of as a future Cardiff Blues player, once his contract with the French club expires at the end of the season.

Jones' fellow Wales international Gavin Henson has had the date set for his appeal against the 72-day ban for elbowing Leicester prop Alex Moreno. Henson must present himself before a three-man panel in Dublin next Tuesday.

Another All Black rumoured to be on the move is the New Zealand captain, Tana Umaga. He is set to play a full part in the Hurricanes' Super 14 programme, but later this month is expected to decide on his Test future. If he retires, rumours from New Zealand suggest that Leicester will sign him as a replacement for fellow Kiwi Daryl Gibson.

The England A No 8 Adam Balding, the Gloucester captain, has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Kingsholm until 2008.

The long-running dispute between Twickenham and the clubs looks destined to end up in a costly legal case after the Rugby Football Union's latest offer was rejected by Premier Rugby Ltd. The RFU offered to pay clubs half of what they were owed for releasing players to the British and Irish Lions, with the other half to be donated either to the rugby charity SPIRE, or to the Matt Hampson appeal, for the Leicester youngster who is paralysed.

This was described as "shameless use of PR" by the PRL chief executive Mark McCafferty last night.

The RFU also says that there are seven release days remaining in the season, not five as PRL claims. Twickenham further accused PRL of damaging the function of England Rugby Ltd by its stance, which is refuted by McCafferty.

Although the RFU has conceded that players can play in the Powergen semi-finals in March, they will still be required by England during that week, thus disrupting the semi-finalists' preparations. So a court case that will cost the whole game a lot of money looms.