Murdoch prepares to sign £170m TV deal

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The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch's global shopping spree for sporting events to cover continued yesterday with reports from Down Under that the Australian Rugby Union was about to sign a new broadcasting rights contract with News Ltd, his Antipodean company.

Rupert Murdoch's global shopping spree for sporting events to cover continued yesterday with reports from Down Under that the Australian Rugby Union was about to sign a new broadcasting rights contract with News Ltd, his Antipodean company.

The new deal, which would kick in when the present 10-year contract expires at the end of the 2005 southern hemisphere season, is reported to be worth around £170m over five years.

Only last week Murdoch's BSkyB agreed a four-year deal worth between £180m-£200m with the England and Wales Cricket Board for exclusive live broadcasting rights to domestic cricket in this country from 2006.

Now Murdoch is on the brink of securing the rights to televise the new format Tri-Nations tournament, involving Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as the expanded Super 14 competition. The deal represents a 16 per cent increase on the original 10-year contract, although there will be 94 matches in an expanded Super 14 competition, compared with 69 in Super 12, and the Tri-Nations series - now involving six matches with each country playing the others twice in a home and away format - will be increased to a three-round, nine-game contest.

While the Australian game's future looks bright, the same cannot be said for a couple of Wallaby players. Sale's former Australian centre Graeme Bond has been forced to retire through injury. Bond's last appearance was in Sale's Powergen Cup victory over Leeds in March, when he was carried off the field after suffering a "stinger" injury to his neck. "I have two protruding discs near my spinal cord and the risk of playing again is not worth taking," explained Bond, 30, who won five caps.

Daniel Herbert, a veteran of 67 Wallaby Tests, also has a neck injury which has sidelined him at Perpignan all season. Herbert, 30, suffered a slipped disc in his neck and, during surgery, a nerve was stretched, leaving him with a partially "dead" arm. Herbert sees a specialist in Bordeaux next month.

Glasgow prop Euan Murray has had his 12-week ban for stamping during his club's Celtic League match against Llanelli last month cut to eight weeks by Scottish Rugby's appeals committee.

Wales A scrum-half Andy Williams, who left Bath at the start of last season, has been re-signed by Bath from Neath-Swansea Ospreys as cover until the end of the season.

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