Record crowd for England's first game at revamped Twickenham

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The Independent Online

England will open their 2007 Six Nations Championship with a Calcutta Cup game against Scotland at the revamped Twickenham.

The match is guaranteed to feature a record crowd because seating will be in place in the rebuilt South Stand taking the capacity up to 82,000.

Coincidentally, that is the figure which Ireland will be able to match. Their two home games in the tournament, against England and France, will be staged at Croke Park in Dublin, home of the Gaelic arm of Ireland's sports. But the IRFU may find they are able to increase the capacity of the ground with temporary seating since a rugby pitch occupies a far smaller area than a Gaelic football playing field.

Next year's tournament features two "Super Saturdays", on 24 February and 17 March, when all three matches take place on the same day, but with the kick-off times staggered.

London Irish suffered a blow when Brian Smith, their director of rugby, was given a match-day suspension of three weeks following a disciplinary hearing which finished in the small hours of yesterday.

The ban, which runs until 23 May, means Smith will not be allowed to coach on a match day and he will be barred from entering the playing enclosure, technical areas, touchline, tunnel as well as players' and officials' areas.

It means that Smith will miss two of London Irish's biggest games of the season: the Premiership play-off semi-final on the weekend after next as well as the European Challenge Cup final against Gloucester on 21 May as well as this weekend's final league fixture at home to Saracens.

Smith pleaded guilty to a charge of abusing a match official after a Guinness A league match between the Exiles and Gloucester at Hartpury College in March.

Yesterday Smith admitted on the club's website: "I pleaded guilty to calling the referee a cheat after the Guinness A league game six weeks ago.

"The panel accepted that the referee put words into my mouth when he asked me twice if I was calling him a cheat. I regret the incident and chose to plead guilty to set an example to the team."

The match official in question was the referee, Nick Williams, and Smith was charged under regulation 5.12 (dealing with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Union and the game). Smith was also fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £250 costs.

Bristol yesterday confirmed that they had signed the Plymouth Albion fullback Luke Arscott, 21, on a two-year deal. He joins his new team-mates in time for pre-season training.

Six Nations

3 Feb 2007:

Italy v France (13.30)

England v Scotland (16.00)

4 Feb:

Wales v Ireland (15.00)

10 Feb:

England v Italy (13.30)

Scotland v Wales (15.30)

11 Feb:

Ireland v France (15.00)

24 Feb:

Scotland v Italy (15.00)

Ireland v England (17.30)

France v Wales (20.00)

10 Mar:

Scotland v Ireland (13.30)

Italy v Wales (15.30)

11 Mar:

England v France (15.00)

17 Mar:

Italy v Ireland (13.30)

France v Scotland (15.30)

Wales v England (17.30)

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