Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Club V Country Dispute Looms for Falcons Pair

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Club V Country Dispute Looms for Falcons Pair

Article excerpt

Byline: By Alan Hedley

Falcons duo Stuart Grimes and Craig Hamilton have been named in the Scotland squad, which will be captained by Glasgow Warriors hooker Gordon Bulloch, for the autumn Test series next month.

But the Newcastle pair could be refused release by the Kingston Park club for the opening game of the four-Test autumn series against Australia on November 6.

Several English clubs, including Newcastle, have been told by Premier Rugby, the club's umbrella organisation, that they do not have to release players for the Wallabies match at Murrayfield because it has not been sanctioned by the IRB ( the game was added to the list after the schedule had been agreed.

In normal circumstances, a national union have first call on their players for Tests sanctioned by the International Board but Howard Thomas, chief executive of Premier Rugby, the body representing England's top clubs, said: "We've reminded people of our expectation that clubs should pick their best players for the Premiership that weekend."

But a Premier Rugby spokesperson said last night: "There is no three-line whip or anything like that but we have said to the clubs that it is up to them whether they release their players for that game or not."

Premier Rugby and the clubs are annoyed because the game clashes with a Premiership weekend and the Australia fixture was added to the calendar only a few weeks ago and falls outside the recognised autumn window for Tests. Newcastle are due to play at Sale in the Premiership on the Friday night before the Scotland v Australia game.

Rob Andrew, the Falcons director of rugby, will have to decide whether to allow Grimes and Hamilton to play while Brian Kennedy, Sale Sharks major backer, has made it clear forward Jason White ( also named in the squad last night ( would be unavailable. …

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