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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.

All Blacks’ revenge mission will be our most difficult test so far,

Stuart Lancaster faces the most delicate motivational task of his international career as England seek to strengthen their credentials as potential winners of the home World Cup in 2015 by beating New Zealand, the reigning champions, at Twickenham this weekend. The All Blacks are treating the match as a revenge mission following their record defeat in London a year ago, while Lancaster’s men see it as a rite of passage.

Heineken Cup: Harlequins face stiff French test of credentials after

Harlequins’ doomed attempt to play fast and loose against a Scarlets team that knows no other way – “we will never change,” said the Welsh region’s manager and former Wales wing Garan Evans, as he boarded a bus emblazoned with a rampant dragon for a happy journey back down the M4 – leaves them contemplating more of the same pain this weekend, away to Clermont Auvergne in the second round of Heineken Cup pool matches.

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Clubs dismiss talks and commit to new Champions Cup

England’s top-flight clubs already have a name for the tournament they say will fill the gap in the fixture list left by their abandonment of the Heineken Cup and the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup at the end of the season. It will be called the Rugby Champions Cup. More significantly at this stage of the political game, they confirmed yesterday that together with the leading French teams, their partners in rebellion, they would not engage in any mediation process aimed at saving the two existing European competitions.

Gloucester's Nick Wood faces long ban as referees feel the strain

Nick Wood, the Gloucester prop sent off at Saracens for using the flanker Jacques Burger as a human doormat, will face a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel in Bristol on Tuesday to answer for his crime. It should not take him long – he has already apologised to all and sundry, both for stamping on Burger’s head and for leaving his team a man short for 79 minutes of an 80-minute game – but his suspension could drag on for quite a while. He will be very lucky indeed if he plays again before the end of November.