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Tuesday, September 14, 1999 Published at 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK

Sport: Rugby Union

Wales face 'World Cup forfeit'

Jason Jones-Hughes: Eligible for Wales and Australia

International Rugby Board Chief Executive Steven Bains: "He's eligible to play for Wales"
Wales run the risk of fielding an ineligible player in the World Cup, because the Australian Rugby Union is refusing to release controversial centre Jason Jones-Hughes from his contract.

ARU chief John O'Neill announced a challenge to the International Rugby Board's ruling that Jones-Hughes could represent his father's homeland in next month's tournament.

Long-running row

"Jason Jones-Hughes signed a contract with the ARU and New South Wales on 17 January 1998 and in doing so, committed himself to playing for New South Wales and Australia at least until the end of 2000," he said.

[ image: Jones-Hughes could partner Welsh veteran Scott Gibbs]
Jones-Hughes could partner Welsh veteran Scott Gibbs
"We believe that the IRB has only at this stage determined eligibility. They say he's eligible to play for Wales. He's also eligible to play for Australia."

He warned Wales against fielding Jones-Hughes on the basis that they could feasibly forfeit their matches if the contract challenge ultimately went against them.

The row over the player has rumbled on for several months, since Welsh coach Graham Henry originally included the centre in his World Cup squad.

The ARU then argued that he could not play for Wales because he had represented the Australian Barbarians - the Wallabies' de facto second team - against Scotland last year.

IRB rules state that a player who has played for one country at international level cannot then play for a second country, resulting in Jones-Hughes being barred from playing for Wales.

Forfeited matches

But the Welsh Rugby Union successfully appealed against the decision, citing the example of two Tongan players who had represented the Australian Barbarians and then Tonga without challenge from the ARU.

O'Neill said: "We would argue in committing himself to play for New South Wales and Australia for the next two years, then he can't play for anyone else. Now we're going to challenge it on the basis of contract law."

He said there was no way Australia or New South Wales would release Jones-Hughes from his contract.

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