Pants get rugby's knickers in a twist


Last updated at 07:29 25 January 2008

The fall-out from BBC Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman's complaints about the lack of support he receives from his Marks & Spencer's pants has remarkably sparked yet another civil war in English rugby.

England rugby sponsors M&S wanted to hit

back at Paxman's high-profile criticisms of their

garments by using three beefcake members of

the England squad to pose in their underwear

with the clever promotional campaign message

that if they can support the England rugby team

where it matters, they can support anyone.

The photoshoot was due to take place this

week but the chosen players were pulled out at

the last minute by the players' PRA union chief

Damian Hopley on the instructions of the

Guinness Premiership clubs who, together,

control the England players' image rights.

This confrontational move — which has

seriously annoyed RFU chief executive Francis

Baron — follows a row between the clubs and the

RFU over the terms under which Twickenham

has been hired by the Premiership for their

playoff final on May 31 and Premiership plans to

offset costs by arranging a second match on the day.

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paxman in pants

The RFU also want the PRA, 50 per cent

funded by the RFU, to cease being based in the

same Twickenham office building as the

Premiership. The concern is that Hopley will

become a puppet union leader for the clubs

unless the PRA show some independence.

Kevin Keegan has requested that TV

reporters are limited to just two questions

each at his media conference on Friday following

his terse exchanges with Sky Sports north east

reporter David Craig, who he felt had tried to

dominate his unveiling as Newcastle manager

last week.

Craig isn't flavour of the month at

Sky, having pretended to be 'Paul from

Yorkshire' when taking part in a talkSport

phone-in. Maybe Craig should adopt his

pseudonym again to get more speaking time.

David Vine, the BBC presenter

associated with Ski Sunday,

switched off in disgust at the

weekend at how his beloved

programme has been revamped to

include little competitive skiing.

Highlights of an epic Kitzbuhel

World Cup downhill were

shoehorned into a few minutes while

the programme concentrated on presenter

Graham Bell teaching celebrity chef Heston

Blumenthal how to ski.

The limit for Vine came when they

showed how the mountains look in the summer.

He said: 'If the BBC desire to do a Top Gear in

the snow, fair enough, but don't call it Ski

Sunday or use the programme's famous anthem.

'I've had so many people ringing me up,

complaining about the lack of skiing. It's a travesty,

especially as the Kitzbuhel meeting was so

exciting. I turned off after five minutes.'

The decision of England's

high-maintenance Test cricket sponsors npower

to release the 2009 Ashes logo in an internet

video montage poking fun at the Aussies on

Australia Day tomorrow doesn't make sense.

It is the first anniversary of English cricket

hitting one of its all-times lows that even

sparked a public apology from coach Duncan

Fletcher. England were dismissed for 110 in just

two hours in a day-nighter in Adelaide and had

lost the game before the floodlights came on —

allowing Freddie Flintoff and mates to head for

the bar even earlier than usual.

Sven's new derby plea

Manchester City manager Sven Goran

Eriksson made another impassioned plea

on Thursday for the club's fans to respect the

highly-sensitive minute's silence planned for the

50th anniversary of the Munich disaster before

the derby game at Old Trafford in a fortnight.

Eriksson said: 'Respect is one of the most

important things in life.'

Ironically, FA chairman Geoff Thompson had

to wait until he announced he was stepping

down at yesterday's FA board meeting before

receiving the warmest reception of his nine years

at the helm. New independent leader Lord

Triesman will take charge of the board from

February 1 — as revealed by Sports Agenda.