Power play escalates as RFU adds autumn Test to schedule

Tom Walkinshaw, the chairman of Premier Rugby Limited, which represents the 12 Premiership clubs, said: "We are under no obligation to release players for a fourth international, because that is in breach of the Long Form Agreement, which stipulates player release for eight internationals - three in the autumn and the five in the Six Nations."

If the RFU tried to tempt clubs with cash incentives to release players for an extra Test, Walkinshaw was confident that they would be rebuffed. "There is no hope of us rolling over if the RFU throw money at us," the Gloucester owner said.

One way to win over the clubs might be if the RFU were to scrap relegation for a set period - which would give the clubs more financial stability - or to reintroduce the play-off system, a deck stacked heavily in favour of Premiership clubs.

Player release is one of the issues dividing both camps this season. According to PRL, England, through the RFU, are asking for more time with the players than they have already.

The RFU has decided to withhold some £2.15m from the clubs including about £150,000 from three clubs - Wasps, Sale and Leicester - because their Lions players were in action inside an 11-week rest period following the end of the tour. PRL says there was no such agreement with the RFU over the returning Lions.

Leicester, who lost the tighthead prop Julian White for eight weeks after he was banned on Tuesday night for punching Newcastle's Andy Perry last week, learned yesterday that the loosehead Graham Rowntree could be out for up to six months after suffering a neck injury last Friday.

The coach Frank Hadden yesterday named the Sale flanker Jason White as Scotland's 107th captain for the three autumn Tests against Argentina, Samoa and New Zealand.