Ruck and Maul: RFU to press ahead with Championship despite claims of 'suicide'

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The Independent Online

The Rugby Football Union have often been accused of having the agility of a supertanker when it comes to reacting to events, so it's almost refreshing to hear them accused of moving like a speedboat on, er, speed.

The latest split twixt club and country involves the semi-pro National League One, who for the most part exist ina twilight zone beneath the Guinness Premiership. Not any more. The RFU are pushing ahead with a radical plan to turn the second division into a professional championship next season, reducing the clubs from 16 to 12. Bedford's Geoff Irvine, the chairman of the second-tier clubs, said the move would be "financial suicide", adding: "We don't understand why the RFU are in such a mad rush to force this through." Well, the English game would have two divisions of full-time players, emulating the system in France, and the top four teams would take part in a revitalised Anglo-Welsh tournament. The detractors say the clubs voted 12-4 against, but that was before funding was virtually doubled. "We don't need a majority," Peter Thomas, of London Welsh, said. "This is a new structure and has nothing to do with the First Division. It's up to the individual clubs. If they don't want to join, others will be invited. As a business decision it makes sense." The emphasis will be on fielding players who are qualified for England, but London Welshsay it will never be a case of never say Dai.

WRU hit back in cash row

The Welsh Rugby Union have also reacted swiftly, denying a report in 'The Guardian' that they refused a request from Canada, whom they played on Friday, for financial assistance. It was alleged the Canucks wanted 50p from every ticket sold. "It's defamatory and clearly damaging to our reputation," said the WRU.

Being smart suits Mart

This isn't just any old suit... this is an M&S suit, as advertised by Martin Johnson in the England programme. We wouldn't have seen Brian Ashton as a clothes horse. Shares in M&S, an official supplier to the England team, have taken a dive and they're offering 20 per cent off, helpfully explaining in their ad that a suit "comprises a matching jacket and trousers".

Dan pips Danny in sex stakes

An American entertainment channel is to air a programme on the world's 25 sexiest men. Somebody called Dingdong Dantes is on the list, as is the All Black stand-off Daniel Carter. Sadly the Yanks don't seem to have heard of Danny Cipriani.

This Gosling may be cooked

An RFU disciplinary hearing with a twist will be held tomorrow. Tom Gosling of Spalding RFC was banned from attending soccer matches for three years for racially abusing an opponent while playing football for Wisbech against Felixstowe last season. "The RFU can suspend a player who has sanctions imposed on him by another body," said the RFU.