Weather extends its kingdom of chaos

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The Independent Online
The Football Association will go ahead with the FA Cup fourth- round draw on Sunday no matter how many games are postponed.

Eight pitch inspections have already been scheduled for today, two of them involving Premiership clubs, Coventry City and Leicester City.

Birmingham are particularly anxious to get the go-ahead to play Stevenage, as their last three matches have all fallen victim to the weather. Their manager, Trevor Francis, said: "The majority of the pitch is playable and there has been a big improvement."

The rugby union programme has also been hit with the postponement of Courage League matches at Bedford, Coventry and London Welsh. In Wales, second-placed Pontypridd's First Division home game with Newport is also off.

The US Eagles' tour match against the Welsh champions, Neath, tomorrow has been switched to Cardiff Arms Park. But the match is by no means certain to go ahead, despite an undersoil heating system which has been working overtime.

The pounds 250,000-worth of technology could not save Wednesday's match between Emerging Wales and the Eagles. It was postponed two hours before kick- off.

"Hopefully, we will get this game to go ahead," said a Welsh Rugby Union spokesman, Peter Owens. "On Wednesday the air temperature was so cold that certain areas were still rock hard. The heating had worked, though, because the ground underneath the surface was OK."

Ireland are confident that the international against Italy in Dublin will survive. Light snow has been cleared and a protective covering laid on the pitch. The Italian squad arrived in Dublin yesterday morning followed by Ireland's squad returning after four days of warm weather training in the Algarve.

In rugby league, Oldham's plan to play their final, commemorative match at the soon to be demolished Watersheddings ground against Swinton on Sunday has had to be put off.

Racing faces a seventh straight day without action on turf today following three further abandonments. No jump racing has taken place in Britain since the meeting at Musselburgh last Friday. Today's only meeting will be on the all-weather track at Southwell. A total of 49 jumps meetings have now been lost during this season, 39 since Christmas.

BIG FREEZE FACT FILE

Football

* Today's pitch inspections (with times) for tomorrow's games

FA CUP THIRD ROUND

Chesterfield v Bristol City (9am)

Coventry v Woking (3pm)

Crystal Palace v Leeds (11am)

Gillingham v Derby (11am)

Leicester v Southend (Noon)

Luton v Bolton (10am)

Reading v Southampton (2pm)

Watford v Oxford United (11am)

NATIONWIDE THIRD DIVISION

Brighton v Exeter (10.30am)

* Other matches scheduled for tomorrow are also likely to be subject to pitch inspections.

Rugby Union

Tomorrow's postponements so far

COURGE CLUBS' CHAMPIONSHIP National League Two: Coventry v Rugby; Bedford v Blackheath. League Three: London Welsh v Fylde.

WELSH NATIONAL LEAGUE First Division: Pontypridd v Newport.

Change of venue

TOUR MATCH: Neath v US Eagles (now at Cardiff Arms Park)

Rugby League

Sunday's postponement

COMMEMORATIVE MATCH: Oldham v Swinton.

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