Trouble averted by Richardson

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
John Richardson, the new Rugby Football Union president, looks to have averted a potentially damaging row within the game's ranks with his initiative to resume talks with the other home unions over broadcasting rights for the Five Nations' Championship.

The Northern Division held a three-hour meeting on Wednesday amid rumours of anger, unrest and the possibility of a petition for an SGM - the third of the year - which may well have called for the resignation of, among others, the RFU secretary Tony Hallett.

But after Richardson's announcement that day, and his appeal for patience from all members while the talks resumed, the meeting passed off smoothly. He confirmed that a special working party with two independent non-committee members was being set up to investigate the working practices of the RFU and relations between staff, officers and the various committees. It is expected to report to the president in early September with recommendations for possible policy changes.

Richardson and Cliff Brittle, the chairman of the RFU executive committee are to head a new RFU negotiating team at a meeting with the other home unions in Cardiff on Tuesday. The names, and number of the other members of the team, have yet to be announced. Since Brittle called for all the members of the original team who negotiated the much-criticised BSkyB deal, to stand down, there is some doubt as to what Richardson will do.

Paul Sampson, the Bradford schoolboy who trained with England 's Five Nations squad last winter, is to join Wasps on a three-year contract. The 19-year-old has so far divided his rugby between his school and Otley. Sampson won the English Schools 100 metres title on his 19th birthday last Saturday with a time of 10.48sec.

Richard Webster is heading back to rugby union after agreeing a three- year deal with Bath. The Courage League champions will pay Salford Rugby League Club around pounds 40,000 for the 28-year-old forward who joined the rugby league ranks in 1993.

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