PRL chief Mark McCafferty is planning for the start of the Rugby Champions Cup next season

Rugby clubs set for collision course over European competitions

The last lingering hopes of a speedy solution to the argument over the future of European rugby evaporated when five of the six major governing bodies threw their weight behind the existing Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup competitions. The French, Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh unions effectively pledged to stand against the new Rugby Champions Club being organised by the leading clubs in England and France.

New Zealand-born Rangi Chase has been dropped by England for the semi-final against the Kiwis

Rugby League World Cup: Steve McNamara abandons Rangi Chase after quarter-final lapses

England's coach, Steve McNamara, has bitten the bullet and dropped Rangi Chase for the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand on Saturday.

Christmas gift ideas 2013: best drinks bottles

Do judge these bottles by their labels…

Mamadou Sakho celebrates scoring France’s first goal

World Cup 2014: Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho revels in France comeback against Ukraine

Les Bleus overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit in Paris

Didier Deschamps (centre) celebrates with Mathieu Valbuena (left) and Patrice Evra

France 3 Ukraine 0: Didier Deschamps hails Les Bleus after 'magical' comeback to qualify for World Cup 2014

Result takes Les Bleus to the World Cup in Brazil

Market Report: A rise in Enterprise Inns' share price let Ted Tuppen go out on a high

Investors in Enterprise Inns raised a glass yesterday as sales increased. News of the 0.6 per cent rise in the final quarter of the pub group's financial year accompanied a full-year pre-tax profit of £121m – flat on the previous year. The shares soaked up a 16p rise to 154p, which meant founder and chief executive Ted Tuppen was able to go out on a high.

The former hostage Francis Collomp arrives at Villacoublay military airport outside Paris on Monday

The great escape: How a French hostage fled Islamists kidnappers in Nigeria

Francis Collomp, 63, duped his captors into thinking he was feeble and old

Former French hostage Francis Collomp escaped his captors during a Nigerian army operation against Islamist group Boko Haram

French hostage held by Islamist extremists in Nigeria in daring escape on motorbike

A French engineer held hostage by Islamist extremists in northern Nigeria made a daring escape on a motorcycle taxi at the weekend while his captors were being attacked by the Nigerian army.

Dean Cox of Leyton Orient skips round Jack King of Preston

Leyton Orient 0 Preston North End 1 match report: Lacklustre Orient surrender top spot

Looking dazzled by a rare day in the spotlight without Premier League football, Leyton Orient suffered a first home defeat since February and with it lost their place at the top of League One yesterday. Until a late rally, the London side were outplayed by a Preston team organised and disciplined under Simon Grayson in an effective 3-4-1-2 formation.

Ryan mighty: England’s winger Ryan Hall scores his second try last night

England 34 France 6 match report: England feel the width with Ryan Hall and Josh Charnley

England survived an early scare to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, with rather less assurance than New Zealand or Australia, but still with more than enough to spare.

Rugby round-up: Quade Cooper stars for Australia in win over Ireland

Australia inflicted a first defeat on Ireland's new coach Joe Schmidt as they won 32-15 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Quade Cooper finished the match with 17 points after scoring a try and kicking three conversions and two penalties. The flanker Michael Hooper scored two tries and the wing Nick Cummins claimed another. Ireland had to rely on the boot for all of their points, with Jonathan Sexton kicking four penalties in the first half and Ian Madigan, his replacement at half-time, adding a fifth.

Catalan Dragons aim to add spirit to French flair

This weekend’s quarter-finals are a testing time for the World Cup, not so much for the nations which are expected to go through as for the tournament as a whole.

Hugo Lloris cannot keep out Ukraine’s penalty

Ukraine 2 France 0 match report: Trouble for France after poor display in Kiev

Ukraine stunned France with two second-half goals on Friday to win the first leg of their World Cup playoff 2-0 and put the heavily favored visitors in real danger of missing next year's tournament.

French stars Karim Benzema Yohan Cabaye

World Cup 2014 play-off: Ukraine v France match preview

A look ahead to tonight’s World Cup play-off at the Olympic Stadium

Last Briton born in the 1800s, Grace Jones, dies at 113

Miss Jones, who was a member of the small group of individuals who live to be over 110

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there