SRU fail to make ground
October 15, 2008
Hadden is desperate to boost his side's world ranking with some strong performances next month © Getty Images
The Scottish Rugby Union appear to have been forced into an embarrassing climbdown in their row with English clubs over player release for next month's autumn internationals.
Premier Rugby - the umbrella organisation representing Guinness Premiership sides - last night claimed an International Rugby Board ruling over the matter was a replica of a deal they offered the SRU back in July. The SRU announced the IRB ruling at a press conference yesterday and it initially looked as though they had won a partial victory on the issue.
Rather than having just five days to prepare his players for the November 8 Test against New Zealand, Scotland head coach Frank Hadden - who wanted two weeks - will now be given access to his squad 12 days before the match. But a closer look at the small print revealed a crucial caveat, which states Premiership clubs reserve the right to recall their players on October 30 for EDF Energy Cup matches on the weekend of November 1-2.
And Premier Rugby - who have always maintained they are only obliged to stick to the five-day rule - last night claimed the new deal was no different to one the SRU rejected this summer. "It is exactly what we offered them in July," the organisation's rugby director Phil Winstanley told PA Sport. "We offered Scotland the three days: the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; the 27th, 28th, the 29th - which is what I understand the IRB have reinforced."
Hostilities between the SRU and Premier Rugby escalated last month when the latter refused to release Scotland's 10 Premiership stars for a training session at Murrayfield. The SRU asked the IRB to intervene and clarify their policy on the issue but it seems Premier Rugby have got their way until a new Regulation 9 is set in stone at the end of next month.
Hadden was certainly far from satisfied with the outcome.
"The on-running side-show of Regulation 9 has taken an inordinate amount of everybody's time over the last few months," said the head coach, who is desperate to maximise preparation time for matches which will determine Scotland's ranking for the 2011 World Cup draw. The resolution, we're not entirely happy with it. But at least we know where we are - there's no uncertainty. We can plan for the autumn Tests and so on. That enabled us to get on with more important tasks, like selecting the squad for the preparation."
Despite the SRU's conflict with Premier Rugby, Hadden insisted relations were good with individual clubs, who he hopes will be willing to rest their Scottish players on the weekend of November 1. But he added: "If we select them and whether that happens remains to be seen."
"We are eternally optimistic that that might be the case. And if that's not going to be the case then that may have an impact on the way in which we select our team."
Hadden repeated that veiled threat no fewer than three times, something that will worry his English-based stars, not least Jason White, who was yesterday overlooked for the captaincy. Instead, Edinburgh scrum-half Mike Blair retained the armband for the next three matches after leading his country to Calcutta Cup victory over England earlier this year as well as their first ever Test win in Argentina in the summer.
"I'm really pleased. Frank's put a big vote of confidence in me to do the job," said Blair, who is also captain of his club. Hadden said White, Blair's predecessor, had not played enough rugby since recovering from his latest injury.
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