Ruck and Maul: England daredevils to leap 13,000ft to help heroes

Whether it is canoeing Norwegian fjords or climbing Kilimanjaro, rarely a week passes without news of another fund-raiser by rugby's great and good. No one, it seems, does anything wacky just for the sake of it any more.

The latest effort will be made by Leeds Carnegie's head coach, Neil Back, and his former Leicester team-mate (now retired through injury) Harry Ellis when they jump freefall with The Red Devils to raise money for Help for Heroes. The pair will be joined for the 13,000ft leap at Langar Airfield in Nottingham on 29 June by Josh Lewsey (who made an attempt on Everest last year, raising funds for the Help for Heroes and Combat Stress charities), and brothers Henry and Robbie Paul.

Fancy joining them? Go to backtoearth.org.uk for more details.

Morris could be a good catch

Interesting that the latest name linked with the performance director role at the Rugby Football Union – one of two vacancies remaining among the eight created by chief executive John Steele's reshuffle in January – is Hugh Morris.

The England and Wales Cricket Board's managing director since October 2007, and former Glamorgan and England opening batsman, has been noted in the past as a good friend of Rob Andrew, recently shifted by the RFU to the role of operations director which sits alongside the performance position.

The RFU have said that it is imperative the appointees demonstrate an ability to work together, and that the performance appointee need not necessarily come from rugby. Morris and Andrew were both born in 1963, both were fly-halves in rugby – Morris was a schoolboy cap who turned out for Aberavon in the mid-1980s, scoring 13 points on his debut against Abertillery and 17 against Penarth – and left-handed opening bats, with Andrew representing Cambridge University.

In a newspaper interview when he became the ECB MD, Morris said: "I've met with Rob several times. During the [2007] World Cup I even found myself sending him texts wishing the [England] side luck. As part of the Schofield review we had a long meeting and the parallels between our sports are incredible. A lot of my colleagues speak with their opposite numbers at the RFU all the time."

Seeds of doubt for Saints

Northampton will be aiming to break a 13-year Heineken Cup hoodoo when they meet Ulster today for a place in the semi-finals. No team who have qualified for the quarter-finals as the No 1 seeds – the Saints have that honour after winning all of their matches in Pool One – have gone on to win the title.

Since the introduction of the home-and-away format in the 1997-98 season, only two of the 13 top seeds have reached the final: Stade Français in 2001 – when they lost to Leicester – and Toulouse, who were beaten by Wasps at Twickenham in 2004. Five teams fell at the first knock-out hurdle and six in the semi-finals.

Northampton are the ninth side to come through the pool with six wins but the evidence suggests that pool pain leads to the ultimate gain. Munster in 2008 and Leinster a year later lifted the cup from a seeding as low as sixth.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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