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George Ford set for England promotion but Stuart Lancaster battles

George Ford will be the talk of the town if, as widely assumed, he replaces the France-bound Toby Flood in a revamped England squad this afternoon, but the 20-year-old Bath outside-half's promotion has not been at the top of the red-rose hierarchy's agenda in recent days. Stuart Lancaster and his lieutenants are far more concerned with issues up front, where injuries to important players are making life very complicated indeed.

Bristol show top-flight intentions with two key signings

Bristol, one of the drowsiest of English rugby's sleeping giants, has stirred itself from its slumbers with a double signing of eye-catching quality, thereby delivering a statement of intent that could have all manner of consequences for a sport in the midst of its biggest political upheaval since the 1990s.

Takeover will enable Exiles to recycle Irish cash

England's leading clubs may not know who the hell they will be playing next season, thanks to the latest rampant outbreak of political squabbling over Europe, but the uncertainty has not stopped London Irish negotiating a bright new future for themselves. The Exiles, badly strapped for cash in recent seasons, are on the point of confirming a takeover by a consortium headed by an Irish businessman, Mick Crossan, who made his pile in recycling and waste management.

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