Unlikely thirteenth

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THE SPECTRE of fixture congestion is looming in English club rugby following the postponement of all yesterday's Courage League matches because of frost.

The defending champions Leicester and the present leaders Bath are expected to appeal against the National Clubs Association's decision to reschedule yesterday's League One games for 13 January because that date clashes with an England squad weekend at which final preparations will be made for the Five Nations' Championship opener in France the following Saturday.

Alwynne Evans, the NCA's executive secretary, has hinted that the England get-together will be given precedence over rearranged league fixtures. "We have notified the clubs and now await their appeals," he said. "But we know that weekend was deliberately left blank for England and we will do everything possible to help their preparations."

Bath, who were due to visit Gloucester yesterday, have eight players in the England squad and Leicester, at home to Sale, have three. "I have no intention of letting my side play such a dangerous team as Sale without our England men," said the Leicester coaching director Tony Russ.

Wasps had already rearranged their home game against West Hartlepool, abandoned last month when a spectator had a heart attack, for 13 January, and hope not only that their two England players, Lawrence Dallaglio and Damian Hopley, will be able to play, but also that Sky stick to their plans to televise the game. Wasps' and West's meetings with Harlequins and Bristol, postponed yesterday, may therefore not be played until March.

League Two leaders Northampton, who have four men in the England squad, have switched their match at Moseley to 27 January, fifth-round day in the Pilkington Cup from which both sides have already been eliminated.

The only senior fixture to beat the freeze was in Cornwall where Redruth beat St Ives 23-6.