Hadden happy to play ball over non-release of players

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The Independent Online

The threat of a row between Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, and Premier Rugby Limited over the non-release of players for a national training session receded yesterday.

But it is understood that Hadden will seek redress through the International Board against any clubs if players are prohibited from attending future Scotland training sessions.

And to that end, Hadden has served two weeks notice on Northampton, Leicester and Gloucester that he has called another national training session for the week beginning 26 February, when there are no Six Nations matches, only Guinness Premiership matches at the end of that week.

Yesterday there was a conciliatory tone to Hadden, who had been denied the services of Sean Lamont (Northampton), Jim Hamilton (Leicester) and Gloucester's Rory Lawson for a training session earlier this week.

Hadden spoke to the clubs and said: "Northampton have a lot of injury problems and Paul Grayson, their coach, has said to me that he appreciates that Sean Lamont is needing a rest, but they've got a relegation battle this weekend and there is nothing they can do about that. We accept that.

"Jim Hamilton has been told he is on the bench, and that is a sympathetic view from Leicester. And I think it's probably a good thing that Rory is playing this weekend." Premier Rugby Limited (PRL), the umbrella organisation for the 12 Premiership clubs, insisted that Scotland had not been singled out for special treatment over the issue of player availability.

A statement issued by PRL explained that their interpretation of the IRB's regulation 9.4 was different from that of the Scots and a spokesman added: "We as a group of 12 clubs unanimously agreed that we would always allow the release of players during international Test weeks within IRB windows.

"We feel their interpretation is that they should be allowed any player at 14 days' notice. We think this gives them a 52-week window which is unfair and disproportionate.

"The only way we can make it fair is to apply our policy across all nations and that's what we have tried to do."

Brian Kennedy, the Scottish owner of English Premiership club Sale, yesterday joined the debate.

Kennedy spoke to the Edinburgh Evening News, saying: "Something needs to be done. I hope the current conflict can be the lever that sorts the situation out. This is an opportunity to resolve, once and for all, a crazy situation."

England's former coach Clive Woodward added his weight to the discussions, telling BBC Sport: "You don't want to say every player should be rested before big matches. It doesn't work for every player.You have to treat it on its merits."