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Monday, February 15, 1999 Published at 18:24 GMT

No adverts for Twickenham pitch

The Ireland v France game was disrupted by sponsors' pitch markings

England will play Scotland in their Five Nations opener on Saturday on a Twickenham pitch free of advertisements.

The Rugby Football Union and Five Nations sponsors, Lloyds TSB, have agreed that the only "pitch-branding" will be behind the goals.

The controversial issue arose during Ireland's opening game of the championship against France in Dublin 10 days ago, when advertisements for Lloyds TSB and Nissan painted on the turf did not stay fast.

After the first midfield scrum collapsed the Irish players' green shirts were covered in blue, while later both sets of teams had red and blue disfiguring their shirts and shorts.

Irish hooker Keith Wood had to have his shaven head mopped free of dye and Five Nations chairman Roger Pickering wrote to the sponsors stating: "This is unacceptable. Find a way of making the colours stay on the grass."

The initiative to leave the main pitch area at Twickenham as an ad-free zone came from the RFU. Management board chairman Brian Baister stated: "I'm delighted that we have reached this arrangement and I would like to thank Lloyds TSB for the constructive and helpful manner in which the talks were conducted since they began three weeks ago."

The RFU were always reluctant to have the advertisements and were given further ammunition by the episode at Lansdowne Road.

Ford Ennals, group marketing director for Lloyds TSB, said: "We accept the RFU's decision.

"We view the sponsorship as a partnership and will continue discussions with the Five Nations to ensure the delivery of our contractual right for the benefit of the sport and this prestigious tournament."

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