Clubs feel benefit of final success

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The Independent Online

It took 36 hours for the "Sydney Factor" to kick in at club level and produce a surge of interest in rugby union.

Gloucester's switchboard has been humming with inquiries about six-month season tickets and how to become members of the club, and all simply on the strength of having watched England overcome Australia in Saturday's epic World Cup final.

According to Gloucester's press officer, Justin Hopwood, "Practically every phone caller prefaced their inquiry with the words, 'After watching England on Saturday...', while our official club website has had numerous additional hits".

At Leeds, the Tykes spokesman, Phil Daly, said: "We have had a fair bit of interest in tickets, but more significantly we have had a number of inquiries from local businesses wanting to get involved with sponsorship."

Leeds United's form on the pitch and alleged misdemeanours off it may well be key factors here, and Daly confirmed that a lot of the sponsorship inquiries came from people or organisations that had been involved with football, but now wanted to put their cash into rugby where the public image and the profile is in sharp contrast to a game which has lost much of its appeal throughout the country.

Back at Gloucester, there was further cause for celebration with the news that Nigel Melville could well have the services of Samoa's No 8, Junior Paramore, who has recovered from a broken thumb, as well as Adam Eustace, not forgetting Andy Hazell who has just finished serving a suspension.

Then there are the World Cup players. South Africa's Thinus Delport could be fit, and if Phil Vickery and Trevor Woodman are unlikely to play, the scrum-half Andy Gomarsall may well face the Saints.

Leicester are unlikely to use Martin Johnson, Neil Back and Ben Kay, but Dorian West, Lewis Moody, Julian White and Martin Corry were used more sparingly Down Under, so they should feature against the Premiership leaders.

The Bath head coach, John Connolly, may rest his World Cup trio of Mike Catt, Iain Balshaw and Mike Tindall, while Newcastle do the same with Jonny Wilkinson, although the England stand-off will be paraded before his adoring fans this weekend at the Premiership clash against Wasps.

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