Ruck and Maul: Heineken organisers remind English clubs of their right to Rome


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The Independent Online

A few tales of friends, Romans and their countrymen before England's first appearance at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday, when a sell-out crowd of 80,000 is expected.

European Rugby Cup have plans to stage the Heineken Cup final of 2015 at the same ground, with Milan's San Siro – where the All Blacks beat Italy 20-6 in front of 77,000 in 2009 – also under consideration. While the English clubs grumble that ERC's commercial deals are not good enough, they have been reminded that any possible world championship involving Super Rugby teams would be organised by existing bodies, and therefore the Heineken Cup would be the qualifying tournament. An ERC board meeting this Wednesday will see a new English face at the table, with Rob Andrew taking the Rugby Football Union seat formerly occupied by Martyn Thomas.

Dance faces music

When Thomas stood down from his role on the International Rugby Board, his vote in the re-election of Bernard Lapasset as IRB chairman was cast by Jonathan Dance. He has been an RFU Council member since 1994 and serves on the board of directors and the governance committee. Dance is a veritable Twickenham grandee but for the first time in 18 years he is being challenged for his Berkshire seat on the Council – by the Premiership referee Ashley Rowden. Rowden, 52, said: "Clubs feel disenfranchised and want to be represented by someone more in touch with the modern game. I'm well known in the game, I'm open and honest and what clubs are telling me is they need a new voice. There's a perception among clubs, rightly or wrongly, that Council members fudge decisions to suit their own ends. Well, I'm not going to fudge anything because I've been making big decisions every weekend for the last 20 years."

Italian job for Rugby

One of Italy's team sponsors, Peroni, have arranged for correspondents from the TV stations Rai and Sky Italia and newspapers La Gazzetto dello Sport and Corriere della Sera to visit Rugby this week, to see the school that gave the game its name and the town's rugby club. In return a 40-strong group from Rugby Lions – the leaders of National League Three Midlands, coached by the former Leicester and Leeds pair Neil Back and Andy Key – will make a four-day trip to Rovigo and Rome. The group, including past England internationals Steve Brain and Stan Purdy, club legend Tim Cowell and current first-team squad members, will be announced on the Olympic Stadium pitch before kick-off. "It is quite a coup to get such coverage from La Gazzetto dello Sport. They normally have 30-odd pages of football and a couple of column inches on rugby," said the Rugby Lions captain, Andy Vilk, a fluent Italian speaker from his time playing for Treviso. "It should be a cracking trip for the town and the club. It could be huge in terms of putting Rugby on the international map."

Mallinder gets on his bike

Northampton's director of rugby, Jim Mallinder, will follow in the tyremarks of the former Gloucester coach Dean Ryan when he takes on the Tour de France "Etape" this summer. He will raise money for the Puzzle Centre in Buckingham, who assist pre-school children with communication and autism spectrum disorders. The 6ft 6in, 17st Ryan made high-speed descents such as the fearsome 7,000ft Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees. More at