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Saturday, 1 April, 2000, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Rugby chiefs deny eligibility delay
Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson
Howarth and Sinkinson are in doubt
Rugby union chiefs have denied they have not acted swiftly to resolve the eligibility row surrounding players who have represented Wales and Scotland.

The International Rugby Board has delayed making a decision on the eligibility of international exiles Shane Howarth, Brett Sinkinson and David Hilton.

We need to come out of this at the end of the day with a system that does not break down again

IRB Chairman Vernon Pugh
Instead a panel has been set up to investigate the cases further.

South African Jannie Lubbe, former England captain John Spencer and ex-Ireland and British Lions skipper Ronnie Dawson, will report back to the IRB within 28 days.

"I think the board has acted very quickly," IRB Chief Executive Stephen Baines told a news conference.

The panel has to decide whether New Zealand-born Howarth and Sinkinson can play for Wales and whether prop David Hilton has a future with Scotland.

The trio all claimed eligibility with the respective nations through Welsh or Scottish-born grandparents, claims that have since been found to be unsubstantiated.

The sanctions range from a warning to a fine and also include possible cancellation of points or suspension from a tournament.

Legal challenge

A capped player deemed ineligible will find his international career at an end as he cannot switch to playing for another nation under current rules.

The board has also approved a proposal that uncapped players who go on an overseas tour will be ineligible for another country.

This would have stopped Australian-born Jason Jones-Hughes switching to Wales last year.

The IRB hopes to approve an updated set of guidelines on eligibility when it meets in October.

It said the rules had to be robust enough to withstand possible legal challenges.

"We need to come out of this at the end of the day with a system that does not break down again," said IRB Chairman Vernon Pugh.

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