Interpro series to be cut back


The Guinness-sponsored Interprovincial Championship is likely to revert to a three-match series this season after the matches fixed for Friday, December 28th (Ulster v Munster at Ravenhill) and Saturday, December 29th (Connacht v Leinster at the Sportsground) were postponed yesterday.

The rugby committee of the IRFU will meet on Thursday to decide what to do with the interprovincials but the likelihood is that the championship will be cut back to one full round of three matches apiece as opposed to the six-series, home-and-away format of the last three years - all of which were won by Munster.

There is invariably a danger that the championship will be devalued slightly but such has been the success of the provinces in the Celtic League that there really is little room for three additional weekends to be set aside for the interpros.

Not alone will the decision be widely welcomed by the provincial managements and first-team squads but the decision has also received the imprimatur of the IRFU's director of fitness Dr Liam Hennessy.

Nevertheless, Ulster's need of a warm-up game before the European Cup resumes on the first weekend in January (Alan Solomons' team play Wasps at Loftus Road on Sunday, January 6th) has meant that they will host Munster on December 28th anyhow - albeit in a "friendly".

Tickets bought for the original game remain valid though prices will be revised in line with a friendly and anyone seeking a refund will be able to obtain one from the Ulster Branch offices in Ravenhill.

All in all it promises to be a fairly quiet festive period after a hectic first four months to the 2001-2002 season. No All-Ireland League games have been arranged for this weekend while the only first division match scheduled for the last Saturday of the year will see the holders Dungannon entertain Shannon before the league resumes in earnest on the first weekend of the new year.

Eric Miller will probably find out his punishment sometime tomorrow night when it is anticipated that an IRFU disciplinary committee will convene. However, a precise date and time this week has yet to be confirmed. The Leinster flanker was sent off in Saturday's Celtic League final for kicking Anthony Foley on the ground.

The BBC have pledged to pursue their bid to recapture from Sky the exclusive rights to England's Six Nations matches. The tender document for the 2003 Six Nations Championship is expected to be put out in February - and the BBC want the full package live. Peter Salmon, head of Sport, promised a lot of new investment would go into the BBC coverage.