English clubs give Hadden a headache

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The Independent Online

Scotland Rugby is up in arms after their England-based players were refused permission to attend a training session at Murrayfield yesterday. Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, was deprived of 10 of his leading players after Premier Rugby, which represents the Guinness Premiership clubs, instructed their teams not to release players.

Hadden had named a 50-man squad for his first training session of the new season but lost a fifth of them: Alasdair Strokosch, Alasdair Dickinson, Rory Lawson and Scott Lawson, all of Gloucester; Sean Lamont and Euan Murray of Northampton Saints; Rory Lamont and Jason White of Sale and Gordon Ross (Saracens) and Stephen Jones (Newcastle).

Scotland have made a formal complaint to the International Rugby Board. "We provided these clubs with ample notice," a spokesman said, "and the usual custom and practice has resulted in our England-based players not being made available. We are concerned that our tried and tested relationship with these clubs has been upset by the sudden intervention of Premier Rugby and as a result of the non-appearance of so many players we have made representations to the IRB to resolve the matter.

"Scotland have November Tests against New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. It is essential that our national squad members are suitably prepared for these games. The IRB's first port of call is with the RFU and we await the outcome of their discussions with interest."

Hadden was hoping to get access to the players two weeks before every Test match. This is what his England counterpart, Martin Johnson, enjoys under a new agreement but that luxury is paid for by the RFU to the Premiership clubs. There is no such agreement with Scotland.

"We have to be consistent that this is the state of affairs," a spokesman for Premier Rugby said. "It is not just for Scotland. We can imagine similar representations will come from the Irish, the Welsh, the Italians and so forth."

Things could hardly get worse for Wasps unless they fall into a vat of insecticide but having made history by losing their first three games of the Premiership they travel to Leicester on Friday unsure of the availability of James Haskell and Richard Birkett.

The two forwards appeared before an RFU disciplinary panel in London yesterday and, unusually, Judge Jeff Blackett reserved judgement until today. Haskell was accused of a head butt and Birkett of stamping in the defeat to Worcester.

What a difference a win makes. Eddie Jones, one of the harshest critics of the experimental law variations, had slightly changed his tune after Saracens outplayed Newcastle 44-14, earning their first victory of the season plus a bonus point. "We had some control and the way the game is being played at the moment, and the interpretation of the laws, you need that control," Jones said.