From Bloomberg Sports & the Press Association
A new threat to England fielding a full-strength side in the 5
Nations tournament has reared its head. Rugby's two controling
bodies are set to descend into conflict again after clubs
received demands asking them to guarantee the unconditional
release of players for international duty.
Officials from England's top clubs were stunned to receive the
demands asking them to sign the agreement with the RFU, claiming
it was "fundamentally different" to what they expected.
The EPRUC has consistently said there would be no withdrawal of
players form the 5 Nations, but they did refuse to releae them
for the divisional matches against touring teams earlier this
There is now an obvious threat to England fielding a full
strength side in their 5 Nations opener against Scotland on Feb.
Kim Deshayes, chief executive of EPRUC, said, "We have been given
until noon tomorrow to guarantee that all players selected for
England will be given free release without any conditions
attached. We have also been asked to sign the redrafted
agreement by Jan. 20. At present the 24 clubs are coordinating a
response. The lawyers have hijacked the situation and we want
negotiating teams from both sides to meet agin without any
lawyers. It is desperately disappointing because we had amicable
meetings with the RFU leading officials and talked harmoniously
about the clubs' requirements."
In Norhtampton's match program on Saturday, club chairman Keith
Barwell said,'If things are not sorted out by the end of January
then, frankly, the 5 nations is under threat."