Northampton

Sam Warburton’s loyalty to Wales may leave him out in the cold at

Sam Warburton finally knows who will be employing him next season and how much he can expect to earn after signing a central contract with the Welsh Rugby Union – the kind of contract rejected by two of his fellow Red Dragon titans, the full-back Leigh Halfpenny and the lock Alun Wyn Jones, in favour of alternative deals with Toulon and Ospreys respectively. What Warburton does not know is how many top-level club games he will play if the sport’s alleged “leaders” fail to break the impasse over the future of the Heineken Cup.

Six Nations: Back injury ends Mathew Tait's hopes of Stuart Lancaster

It would be factually incorrect to suggest that Mathew Tait is “always injured”, but there are undeniably times when it seems that way. Like now. Stuart Lancaster and his fellow England coaches were relishing the prospect of watching the Leicester full-back play for the second-string Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds at Gloucester this weekend and Tait knew that a strong performance would do his chances of a welcome red-rose recall no harm at all. Sadly, there will be no performance of any description. The poor man is crocked again.

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.

Six Nations 2014: Warren Gatland stays true to tried and trusted squad

Warren Gatland already knows a thing or two about laying hands on the union code's glittering prizes, but if he makes Six Nations history over the next few weeks by coaching Wales to a third successive title, his reputation as a rugby alchemist will be secure. The 32-man squad he announced looked extremely powerful, but with several key players in contractual limbo, others plying their trade abroad and still more lamenting the viciousness of the political turf war west of the Severn, the New Zealander may have a difficult job bringing people together in common cause.

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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.