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 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.

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.

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