English top-flight set for its most competitive season yet, but is dogged by financial allegations – and England’s failure
The Grand Final and England v Uruguay are both being played in Manchester, but league and union remain miles apart in terms of respect
England coach supports captain after risky call leads to World Cup loss against Wales but does say Farrell was ‘kicking well’
Argentina 54 Georgia 9
With Pool A clashes against Wales and Australia lying in wait, England know that defeat on Friday is not an option
Richie McCaw, the record-breaking All Black captain who is attempting to become the first man to lead his country to successive world titles, will not entertain talk of retirement – perhaps because he knows that every other player in the international game wishes he had retired already.
Warburton became the first to agree a deal with the Welsh Rugby Union that will keep him playing for the Cardiff Blues
The Exeter wing gets his chance in Paris against France
It will be the third successive Six Nations the Harlequins flanker has been at the helm for
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.
Lancaster has warned administrators that the Elite Player Squad members need to be looked after better following a gruelling Lions tour and first half of the domestic season
Leicester 27 Bath 27
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.
It remains nothing more than a dot on the rugby horizon – the 2015 World Cup, that is – and pretty much anything could happen in the 664 days between here and there. The club-versus-union conflict could send the whole of the European game into meltdown (perfectly possible); New Zealand could hit a bad patch (it has to happen sometime, surely); the Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie could decide that his predecessor was right all along and chuck Quade Cooper out on his ear (barely conceivable on latest evidence, admittedly).
Some tickets for the major pool games, including those featuring England, will set you back 41 times the current living wage rate. How on earth will Prince Harry afford it?
She is Britain’s Minister for sport, a former judo champion and recently told The Independent that sport was in her DNA. But Helen Grant’s sporting credential fell spectacularly short in a quiz when she failed to answer a single question correctly - including the name of the FA cup title holders and this year’s Wimbledon women’s champion.