News in Brief
Saints hit back in Lions row
Northampton prop Euan Murray has found himself at the centre of a row between his club and the Lions
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- Northampton Saints have hit back in the row over prop Euan Murray's no-show for the opening meeting of the British & Irish Lions squad on Monday. Scotsman Murray was the only squad member not released by his club for the meeting, with the Saints preparing for Friday's European Challenge Cup semi-final at the Stoop. All players from Leinster and Leicester, the sides contesting Saturday's Heineken Cup final, were present.
Lions manager Gerald Davies told of the coaching team's disappointment at the development, saying that they would be in contact with the RFU over the issue as the Saints had been informed of the necessity back in the autumn. This point has now been rebuffed by Northampton.
"Clearly there has been a misunderstanding regarding Euan's availability prior to the tour because at no point did we get a request to this effect from the British and Irish Lions committee," said Saints chief executive Allan Robson. "Saints have come a long way this season as a club and are now only four days away from a must-win game which would qualify us for the Heineken Cup. Just 12 months ago we were in National League One and to join Europe's elite after such a short time would be a superb achievement.
"Understandably, the coaches' priority is therefore to concentrate their efforts on winning this game on Friday. There is, of course, no obligation under IRB regulations for clubs to release players for today's get together. Of course Euan has been made available to join up with the Lions squad immediately after our cup final and we hope that he plays a major part on tour and that the Lions are successful."
- Leinster boss Michael Cheika is expecting a stronger showing from the Welsh regions in next season's Magner League after the introduction of a playoff system already used in the Guinness Premiership, Super 14 and French Top 14 and the scrapping of the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
"I think you might see a different picture next year when they don't have to deal with the EDF [Anglo-Welsh Cup]," Cheika told BBC Sport Wales. "Sometimes they [the Welsh regions] have got to fight on three fronts and next year they'll be fighting on two.
"There'll be a final series [in the Magners League] as well," Cheika said. "There'll be a really interesting series right down to the wire."
- Bulls centre JP Nel will miss the Super 14 semi-final against the Crusaders this weekend after being suspended for four weeks for a dangerous tackle during his side's win over the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
The South African Rugby Union announced that Nel's ban, handed down at a SANZAR judicial hearing in Pretoria, will also keep him out of the tournament final if the Bulls beat the defending champions to reach the final for the second time in three years. Nel will be free to play again on June 13, but has appealed the decision and will have his case heard on Wednesday, May 20.
- Wasps have announced four signings for the new Premiership season, including Bristol winger David Lemi. Samoan international Lemi joins the club on a two-year deal while Wales international scrum-half Warren Fury joins from London Irish, centre Ben Jacobs from Saracens and hooker Chris Whitehead from Coventry.
- Gloucester flanker Apo Satala has signed a one-year contract extension with the Guinness Premiership club. Satala, an infantryman in the Royal Scots regiment of the British Army, will still be free to represent the Army in their key games. He will also be in action for Fiji during this summer's Pacific Nations Cup.
- The Ospreys have appointed Mark Bennett to their coaching staff as strength and conditioning coach. Bennett joins from the Wales coaching staff, with whom he was part of Grand Slams in 2005 and 2008 as fitness coach. He won three caps for Wales as a player.