WRU backs later Six Nations' dates

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The Independent Online

England and Wales rarely stand together on anything when it comes to rugby, but the prospect of a united front on fixture restructuring - the great debating issue of the moment - grew significantly yesterday when the Welsh Rugby Union threw its weight behind relocating the Six Nations' Championship to the same April-May slot advocated by Francis Baron, the head man at Twickenham. The WRU wants to divide the northern-hemisphere season into four portions in an effort to minimise the conflict between the professional club game and the ever-expanding international programme.

According to a WRU document to be tabled at a meeting of the International Rugby Board next month, a heavily revamped European season would begin in October with domestic tournaments - the Celtic League, the English Premiership, the French and Italian championships - and move into cross-border Heineken Cup mode in February. After the Six Nations, there would be a nine-week break before two months of international fixtures, incorporating incoming and outgoing tours.

David Pickering, the WRU chairman, said this structure would end the problems of player availability for club and country, and added: "We feel sure spectators would respond to the impetus of high-intensity rugby being played continuously, rather than through the fragmented timetable currently in operation. There are a number of caveats associated with this - not least concerning revenue from the broadcasters, which is extremely important. But we have a good plan."

In the Heineken Cup, the citing season has started early. Glasgow have pointed the finger at Darren Fox, the Northampton flanker, accusing him of twice butting players during Sunday's close game at Hughenden which the Midlanders won 13-9. The Scots say the second alleged butt, on the Glasgow captain Cameron Mather, was missed by the match officials. In addition, they are upset that the first incident resulted in a yellow card for Fox, rather than one of the red variety.

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