It was an uncomfortable day all round for the national coach Andy Robinson and the massed ranks of Twickenham administrators, all of whom had pushed hard for the big names, not least those who sweated blood on the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, to be given an extended break. Premier Rugby, the body representing the top-flight clubs, issued a statement accusing the RFU of rejecting "a number of constructive proposals" aimed at removing the sting from the issue.
Premier Rugby continued: "The latest proposal would have involved allowing up to eight English Lions players to have a maximum of three days' less rest than the RFU wanted. Several of our clubs have now had to revert to the immediate position: that Lions players are immediately available to play and that individual decisions will be made in agreement with each player on his match fitness and general welfare."
Leicester, who provided eight Lions, have certainly stuck to Premier Rugby's guns by selecting Corry. Two more of the summer contingent in All Black country, the prop Graham Rowntree and lock Ben Kay, have been named among a pool of potential replacements for the Northampton match. A fourth, Neil Back, has retired and no longer concerns the national management. The others - the centre Ollie Smith, the prop Julian White, flanker Lewis Moody and Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy - are not selected for this weekend.
Sale, who boast several Lions among their number, will take the same stand today when they confirm their line-up for tomorrow night's fixture with Newcastle at Edgeley Park. Jason Robinson is not available, but four fellow Lions - Mark Cueto, Charlie Hodgson, Andrew Sheridan and Andy Titterrell - are likely to turn out, much to the RFU's exasperation.
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