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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2006, 12:10 GMT
RFU hopeful of player agreement
The Rugby Football Union believes the long-running row with Premier Rugby, the body representing English clubs, could be resolved this week.

The two sides are at loggerheads over whether England players should play for their clubs before the opening Six Nations clash with Wales at Twickenham.

Premier Rugby insists there will be no compromise on players being rested.

"I believe there will be a settlement and I hope it will be this week," the RFU's Martyn Thomas told BBC Five Live.

Just seven days before the clash with Six Nations champions Wales, Leicester take on Sale and Bath face Wasps in two heavyweight Premiership clashes.

England coach Andy Robinson wants his England players to miss those games but the clubs are reluctant to see their top stars sit out such an important weekend.

I firmly believe the will is there from both sides to resolve this without it going to a court hearing
RFU management board chairman Martyn Thomas

"The issue is about a request from the RFU that the players get rested before the Wales game which is just not possible when it is three weeks away," Premier Rugby's chief executive Mark McCafferty added on Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme.

"I anticipate that the players will be available and if they are selected, they will play."

And Thomas, the chairman of the RFU management board, agreed that it looks like the players will be available for their clubs on that weekend.

"We do not want to see our top 17 players biffing away at each other the week before they go into the Six Nations," he said. "But it appears that as things stand, that will happen."

As well as the player-release issue, the two sides are in dispute over the compensation withheld from the clubs by the RFU following the Lions tour to New Zealand.

Last week an RFU offer was dismissed by Premier Rugby but Thomas added: "We have made offers to their solicitors on Friday to resolve the issue in regard to the Lions money.

"And we are quite happy now we have the necessary release days that Andy Robinson wants as a minimum ahead of the 2007 World Cup.

"I firmly believe the will is there from both sides to resolve this without it going to a court hearing."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Martin Thomas of the RFU


Interview: Premier Rugby's Mark McCafferty



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