Greening in more trouble


Phil Greening's future could be decided by the England management after a further escalation yesterday in the England hooker's dispute with his club, Sale.

Greening was suspended by Sale three weeks ago after making public criticisms of the club and ordered to turn up to train with their fitness coach Steve Hampson. The 24-year-old refused and was fined. Now he faces another fine after he again failed to show yesterday.

Sale insist they will not sell Greening, whose contract runs out at the end of the season, even though the seasonal deadline for players to register for clubs in Premiership One is only one week away.

"We received conflicting reasons for his inability to attend training today," said the Sale chief executive Graham Walker. "I was not satisfied with his explanations and the player will be fined for failing to turn up. He will be fined further if he does not show up in future."

There is little chance of Greening, who dismissed Sale as "going down the drain" last month, seeking a rapprochement with the club he joined from Gloucester last season.

Greening, England's man of the match against Wales on Saturday, said last night: "I want to be at a club where I am happy and settled. The position I am in at the moment is not a great one.

"There are a few clubs who are interested in me and I just want to be back in a good atmosphere, training hard and playing again. I have spoken with Sale, but the club and I seem to be operating on a different wavelength."

He is spending his self-imposed exile training with the England fitness coach Dave Reddin. Bath, Wasps and Northampton have been linked with Greening, who still lives in Gloucester.

Greening may well become a test case for the English Rugby Football Union, which will in June decide whether to follow English cricket's example and contract its leading players centrally. In that case, Twickenham would be able to place him with a club.

Greening will be out of contract in May and has been considering playing for Waikato in New Zealand's national provincial championship after England's tour of South Africa in June, which would rule him out of the opening two months of the new league season.

Sale travel to Bristol for a rearranged league match tonight without Greening. They have signed the former Wales flanker Rob Appleyard on loan from Swansea, but his debut is likely to be delayed until Sunday's visit to Saracens.

Bristol, who still have their sights on the English Cup and the European Shield, include the former London Irish centre Nick Burrows, who has signed from Stade Francais, in place of the rested Scotland centre Jamie Mayer.

The England lock Garath Archer has also been rested - Bristol are in action again on Saturday against Harlequins - and the club's director of rugby Bob Dwyer explained: "Our preparation has been affected by international call-ups, so the senior squad has been drastically depleted. To play two games in a few days in between Six Nations weekends is not ideal."

Stephen Vile has been included on the bench, with Bristol confident they will win an appeal against an RFU decision that the New Zealand-born out-half be classified as an overseas player.

Wales trained yesterday without viewing the video of the Twickenham defeat. The scrum-half, Rob Howley, was absent with a calf injury and his place was taken by Rupert Moon. Neil Jenkins, Scott Quinnell and David Young also sat out the session which was attended by five members of the Wales A side which lost to England A last Friday.

The army officer who led New Zealand's peacekeeping contingent in East Timor has been named as the new All Blacks team manager. Lt Col Andrew Martin, a front-row forward who played at provincial level, replaces Mike Banks, who left after the World Cup. Martin helped the former coach John Hart organise a military-style training camp for the team in the cup build-up.