Six Nations 2014: Heineken Cup rigours threaten to derail England

The waiting is the hardest part. Thirty-five players, led by the reappointed national captain Chris Robshaw, will arrive in the England camp between Sunday evening and Monday morning as attention switches from the Heineken Cup – or rather, what is left of the Heineken Cup – to the Six Nations, which begins in a fortnight's time. How many will be in a condition to train before the middle of next week at the earliest? Not as many as the head coach, Stuart Lancaster, would like, almost certainly.

The star in George North starts to appear for Saints

Northampton paid a fine of £60,000 to the Premiership for allowing George North to play for Wales outside the official international window last month, and if it made a nonsense of the league’s collective policy on the subject, everyone else appears to believe it was a stand worth taking.

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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.

Heineken Cup: Brian O’Driscoll prolongs Northampton Saints’ home

Anyone who had not seen Northampton’s humbling  40-7 defeat by Leinster at Franklin’s Gardens coming may have forgotten the Saints’ series of home losses to Saracens, Ulster, Harlequins, Gloucester and Leicester last season. Or Leinster’s many wondrous performances in the Heineken Cup – three-time winners since 2009, even if last season they dropped a level to winning the Amlin Challenge Cup. The boys in blue did to Northampton on Saturday what they did to them in the famous second half of the 2011 Heineken final.