Wales tour fails to take off after players talk money

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The Independent Online

England are not exactly hot favourites to beat the New Zealand Maoris in the opening match of their summer tour next Monday – the Maoris put almost 50 points on the Tongan World Cup team yesterday by way of confirming their credentials as the strongest non-Test outfit in the game – but they at least expect to turn up in time for kick-off.

England are not exactly hot favourites to beat the New Zealand Maoris in the opening match of their summer tour next Monday – the Maoris put almost 50 points on the Tongan World Cup team yesterday by way of confirming their credentials as the strongest non-Test outfit in the game – but they at least expect to turn up in time for kick-off. Wales, on the other hand, are already well off the pace, having missed their flight to Australia for the meeting with the Wallabies on 14 June. The road from Cardiff to Sydney is a difficult one, but not, apparently, as difficult as the one from Cardiff to Heathrow.

They might have made check-in at the appointed time but for two unforeseen circumstances: an accident on the M4 and, more problematically, an emergency meeting between players and management over tour contracts, under which a significant amount of the available cash comes under the "win bonus" heading. As Wales are playing only two matches on this trip, against Australia and New Zealand, that money is likely to stay in the Welsh Rugby Union current account. "It's a very frustrating time for all involved," confessed Alan Phillips, the team manager, as he set about finding 40-odd hotel beds for the night.

As befits Grand Slam champions, as opposed to Six Nations wooden spoonists, England arrived at the correct terminal at the correct hour and managed to board the correct plane. They were at full strength, too, following fitness checks on the two Gloucester invalids, Trevor Woodman and James Simpson-Daniel. Both men had been suffering from ankle problems.

Clive Woodward, the England coach, will name his side for the Maoris fixture on Friday, and intends to field a side strong enough to make Taine Randell's team sweat. "The 1998 trip to the southern hemisphere, and the Maori match in Rotorua in particular, was one of the low points in English rugby history," Woodward said. "We were under-strength, it was a mis-match and I said then that it should never happen again. This time, we believe we have the players to win."

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