RWC2011: NO REVOTE: Both the IRB (International Rugby Board) and the Japan Rugby Football Union have clarified their positions in relation to an article which appeared in the Sunday Times (January 8).
The article, written by Stephen Jones and headlined 'IRB urged to rerun 2011 World Cup vote or face lawsuit', alleged that "the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARU) has petitioned the IRB, asking for a new vote on the grounds that the previous ballot lacked transparency because the way members of the council cast their votes was not disclosed."
New Zealand claimed victory in the November vote, beating Japan and South Africa - the latter having been eliminated in the first round. The Times' articles added that a letter, allegedly sent by English law firm Addleshaw Goddard, on behalf of the ARU, to the IRB is requesting that a new vote take place by March 31, otherwise legal action is threatened.
The letter questions the lack of voting transparency, and adds that: "We are aware...that the two Irish members were encouraged to vote for New Zealand by being promised the appearance of the All Blacks at the opening ceremony of the redeveloped Lansdowne Road ground."
Today the IRB has released a statement, taking "exception to any suggestion that the vote was not carried out in a proper and professional manner."
It adds: "A letter containing various unsubstantiated and unfounded allegations has been sent to the IRB from an English firm of solicitors purporting to act on behalf of the Asian Rugby Football Union (the Asian Regional Association of the IRB) and was printed in part in an English newspaper.
"The democratically elected officials of the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) have informed the IRB that the letter should not have been sent as it does not represent the views of ARFU and that the person who it seems engaged the solicitors did not have the constitutional authority to do so.
"The Secretary General of ARFU has written to the solicitors stating that they must cease and desist purporting to act for and on behalf of the Asian Rugby Football Union."
The Japan Rugby Football Union have also reacted to the article. JRFU Chairman Nobby Mashimo said: "The Japan Rugby Football Union firmly believes that RWC 2011 in New Zealand will be a great success and will do all it can to ensure the tournament is the best ever.
"We hope that we can continue to play a major role in the development of rugby in Asia and help the IRB achieve its goal.
"The Asian Rugby Football Union has denied any official involvement in the letter requesting a revote for RWC2011, and the JRFU would like to make it clear that it too had no official involvement in this letter."
SOLOMONS TO ASSIST PORTADOWN: Former Ulster coach Alan Solomons is taking up a consultancy role with AIB League Division Three side Portadown, in a bid to help the Chambers Park outfit stave off relegation and rebuild for the future.
The Ports, who were overhauled 44-16 by Bruff on Saturday, are currently just a point ahead of Division Three's bottom side Skerries. Club spokesman Harry Porter is hopeful that South African Solomons, who has been out of rugby since his sacking as coach of Northampton Saints in November 2004, can help turn Portadown's fortunes around.
Porter said: "We couldn't ignore someone with the standing, knowledge and expertise of Alan. He is going to be setting up a strategy to help develop the club and move us forward as we are in decline."
CELTIC LEAGUE RECORDS TUMBLE: Celtic League supporters had plenty to cheer about over the festive seasons with the traditional inter-regional derbies drawing record crowds in Ulster and Wales on consecutive days.
But even those were surpassed on New Year's Eve when 14,135 spectators packed into the RDS in Dublin as Leinster, with Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll making his first home start of the season, claimed a superb victory over Munster.
Ulster had set the records tumbling on St Stephen's Day, increasing their previous best gate set in May 2004, when a crowd of 12,300 filled Ravenhill for their game against Leinster.
Less than 24 hours later, 12,488 supporters turned out at the Arms Park to witness not only Jonah Lomu's first try for Cardiff Blues since returning to competitive rugby, but also the fastest try in Celtic League history courtesy of Newport Gwent Dragons' Nathan Brew.
Celtic League Tournament Director David Jordan said: "The recent record attendances in the Celtic League reflects the growing competitiveness and attractiveness of the league with teams now able to select their current internationalists for most matches and to play them alongside world class players from other countries.
"With Heineken Cup qualification for all teams now based on the finishing position in the league relevant to other sides from the same Union, it has made the Celtic League a much more meaningful competition; fans now have real interest in every result.
"The move to new grounds by some of our teams, (Ospreys now share the purpose built Liberty Stadium with Swansea City, while Leinster have switched a few of their fixtures to the RDS), there is a real opportunity to expand our fan base, and as some of the most exciting players in the world are now on view in the Celtic League we have some great games to look forward to as we enter the second half of the season."
*The average gate for the six Celtic League games played over Christmas was 8897, up by 28% compared to last year, whilst overall gates are up 18.8% on a like-for-like basis over last season*
HUMPHS NETS LEAGUE RECORD: Not content with being Ireland's record points scorer, David Humphreys is now the Celtic League's record points scorer after his 25-point haul in Ulster's 25-23 win against Glasgow on Saturday took him to 522 points, and past previous record holder Gavin Henson of the Ospreys (503).
The 34-year-old Humphreys has scored 130 points in nine league outings this season - a try, 13 conversions, a drop goal and 32 penalties. Leinster fly-half Felipe Contepomi is still the league's top scorer for this season with 155 points (3 tries, 13 conversions and 38 penalties) in ten games.
GALWEGIANS PLANNING FOR FUTURE: A Special General meeting of Galwegians RFC will take place on Thursday next at the clubhouse in Glenina.
The main motions of the get-together concern the club's proposals to sell off their grounds and clubhouse at Crowley Park, Glenina, and move to another site at Coolagh on the Monivea Road, where, subject to planning permission, new playing pitches and clubhouse facilities will be developed.