Ruck and Maul: Premiership clubs subscribe to the view that online is on target

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The Independent Online

England's Aviva Premiership clubs are prepared to take a financial hit to sell their matches to online consumers. Premiership Rugby TV offers subscribers extended highlights within three hours of the final whistle. Ruck and Maul understands that the three-year deal with production company Perform is costing the clubs £200,000 a year before they make any revenue. Punters pay 99p for a14-day trial, rising to £4.99 a month or £49.99 for an annual subscription. With only 930 subscribers to date, the costs will not be covered this season but the clubs will stick with it.

Honesty box is the best policy

And you have to speculate to accumulate. London Irish are hoping hundreds of new supporters attend today's LV Cup match against the Scarlets under a novel "try before you buy" scheme. Spectators who have pre-registered will get into the Madejski Stadium's South Stand for free and after the final whistle contribute what they thought the day was worth into an "honesty box" in the form of collecting buckets. Adult tickets are normally £20 in a stand that tends to be half-full at best. This afternoon it could be packed to its 4,000 capacity. "We've had a great reaction from existing supporters saying they fully intend to put in the honesty box what they'd normally pay," London Irish told Ruck and Maul.

Sarries' red carpet treatment

Despite Brendan Venter's disciplinary run-ins and the €5,000 fine copped by Steve Borthwick for missing a media conference, Saracens appear to have friends in high places. Within hours of the club announcing their plans to play on artificial grass next season, there were supportive statements from Mike Miller and John Steele, respectively the chief executives of the International Rugby Board and Rugby Football Union. Who says the governing bodies move at a snail's pace? Do you get snails under an artificial pitch? Gosforth in Durham/Northumberland Division One are the only club in England playing regularly on one. At first, some opponents objected to playing on it without being able to practise first but the RFU have now regulated to prohibit any such opt-outs.

Prince in Wales

Mike Miller is an enthusiastic Twitter user and further disabused anyone of the idea that the IRB are secretive duffers by giving a running commentary on his trip to Cardiff last weekend. "Prince Albert of Monaco was at Wales v Australia," Miller tweeted. "He's a keen supporter or [sic] rugby. Looking to put on a major sevens event in Monaco from 2012."

Ngwenya states his case

Saracens played on old-fashioned grass at the Honourable Artillery Company ground in the City of London last Tuesday. A mostly second-string side, captained by Borthwick, won 20-6 against USA, whose eclectic tour moved on to Portugal last night, to be followed by Scotland A and Georgia. The States' star-spangled wing Takudzwa "Zee" Ngwenya stood watching and shivering on the HAC touchline, after flying in from playing for Biarritz. "We are not just looking to beat Russia in our World Cup pool," Ngwenya told Ruck and Maul. "We want a big win to open people's eyes in the US. Maybe an Italy or even an Ireland. We know we can do it."

Ireland hold off Samoa

In Dublin yesterday, Ireland beat Samoa 20-10. Jamie Heaslip and Ronan O'Gara scored Ireland's tries, the latter, given a start after giving his team a lifeline against South Africa the week before, also kicking 10 points. Alesana Tuilagi of Leicester scored a try for Samoa, who will be England's opponents at Twickenham on Saturday. In Verona, Argentina beat Italy 22-16. Martin Rodriguez scored the Pumas' try; Sergio Parisse touched down for the Azzurri, who were also awarded a penalty try.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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