Wasps upset by Neath

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The Independent Online
Professionalism would appear to have spawned little but strife in rugby union's brave new world. Yet another row has broken out; this time the much troubled Anglo-Welsh competition is the focus. Wasps having been stirred up by Neath's late withdrawal from tonight's fixture have announced they are to seek up to pounds 15,000 in compensation from the Welsh champions.

The north London club are angry they were allowed to commit themselves to costly arrangements to stage the match at their club headquarters at Sudbury. A Wasps spokesman, John Gasson, said: "We will be asking for compensation. We had committed ourselves to substantial expense."

Neath have cited their inability to raise a front row for the game. According to them, the prop John Davies and the hooker Barry Williams are on international duty with Wales in Italy this week, the reserve hooker Marcus Thomas is not yet 100 per cent fit after a knee injury and Leighton Gerard, another front row specialist, has a leg injury. The prop Mark Harris is the only player with first team experience who is fit.

The Anglo-Welsh tournament is rapidly losing credibility. Bridgend have also postponed tonight's match at Leicester and other Welsh clubs have cried off in earlier rounds of matches. The competition has no sponsor, no television coverage or concomitant broadcasting revenue, and no status.

The competition came under discussion last night during a meeting between representatives of English Professional Rugby Union Clubs and their Welsh counterparts in Cardiff, a get-together which had been called to consider other matters. The Epruc chief executive, Kim Deshayes, said: "We have to flush out why we have problems and then address those problems to get the show back on the road because it's a competition we want to continue with."

Wales, meanwhile, look set for another row with an Anglo-Welsh flavour. They are seriously considering staging the Five Nations match against England on 15 March at Wembley because of rebuilding work at Cardiff Arms Park which will reduce the capacity to around 30,000 from 52,700.

They risk incurring the displeasure of their fans. Talks have been held between the Welsh Rugby Union and Wembley's owners and if it goes ahead it will present Wales supporters with a 300-mile round trip.

The Wales lock Gareth Llewellyn, who plays for Harlequins, said last night: "There is really nowhere else in Wales you could stage the match and if the Arms Park is not available then the only other places to hold it would be Birmingham or London. It's a shame for the supporters and of course the atmosphere will not be the same. But we just have to lump it."

Bath held to draw, page 25

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