Ruck and Maul: Forget the Lions, hello to the British and Irish Cup
In a British and Irish Lions year, a British and Irish Cup has a ring to it, or at least the RFU think so. As well as downsizing National League One into a 12-team Championship, there is a blueprint for the chosen dozen to play alongside Welsh Premiership clubs, Irish provinces and Scottish sides in a 24-team British and Irish Cup during international windows next season, when a successful Championship side might face a hamstring-busting 37 matches. At the same time, the RFU has knocked back the Guinness Premiership's plea for more games, and what the elite clubs will do if the Anglo-Welsh EDF Energy Cup bites the dust remains unclear.
Leeds are Back but for how long?
Leeds Carnegie, the club who put the yo-yo into Yorkshire, will be back in the Premiership next season. They will celebrate – thanks to Exeter's loss at Rotherham yesterday – against Newbury at Headingley today, with kids allowed in for free. Leeds were promoted in 2001 and finished bottom the following season, when there was no relegation. They came fifth in 2003, went down in 2006, up in 2007 and down in 2008. No doubt their coaches Neil Back (right) and Andy Key – Leicester old boys both – have plans to stay put, but first they will turn their attention to a league and cup double in Saturday's National Trophy final at Twickenham. A stage fit for the wing Tom Biggs, who put four tries past Manchester in midweek and is too good for National League One, even if Leeds haven't always been able to say the same.
Brumbies tragedy hits home
Dean Richards was not impressed at all when his Bath counterpart, Steve Meehan, brushed off the customary coach's handshake after Harlequins' win at The Rec last weekend. We will see if Deano finds Meehan's Aussie compatriot, Michael Cheika of Leinster, more civil at the Stoop today. Compare those matters with the tragedy faced by ACT Brumbies' Andy Friend, an Aussie coach under Richards at Quins not long ago. It was Friend's task to inform his players of the death of their team-mate Shawn Mackay in a Durban hospital as they were flying home from a Super 14 match. The 26-year-old lock suffered a cardiac arrest after sustaining terrible injuries when he was run over by an armed response vehicle at 4am outside a nightclub. Mackay's funeral is in Sydney on Wednesday.
Fishy business for Johnno
8 May is the cut-off date for unions to confirm a bid to host the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The IRB will announce the venues for 2015 and 2019 in July, which raises the question that if England and Japan are the prime candidates for the first one, why not divvy them up and save everyone the aggro? Either way, you might imagine the RFU wheeling out the England manager Martin Johnson to press the flesh with the influential. Except, er, that would be the same Johnno who was an energetic globetrotting spokesman for the failed 2011 bid of... Japan. Sushi and chips anyone?
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