Six Nations scraps A internationals

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The Independent Online

All A internationals for the 2004 Six Nations tournament are to be scrapped. The decision follows last season's withdrawal of Wales and Scotland from the A competition as both unions looked to ease their financial problems.

The incoming Welsh Rugby Union chief executive, David Moffett, wasted no time in ending Wales' involvement in order to save money, and Scotland followed suit, , announcing they would not take part in 2004.

Moffett's decision was unpopular both at home and with the other Six Nations' unions, who have used the A internationals to try out Test prospects - several members of the current England squad, including Jason Robinson, have played for the second string.

Scotland's subsequent exit left just four teams in the competition, prompting the Six Nations' Committee to postpone all A matches for next year.

The Zurich Premiership has taken advantage of the ensuing gap in the fixture list to stage three rounds of the 2003-04 league campaign, potentially spelling the end of midweek games.

Last season, several Premiership teams were left without a home match for up to 10 weeks because of European competition and the Six Nations', which takes place in February and March.