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The worms have turned: parasitic infestation seems to be under control

Murrayfield's parasitic worm infestation has reached a "manageable level" according to the latest update from the national stadium.

Although spectators have been shocked by the state of the pitch during recent Edinburgh and Scotland games, a Scottish Rugby spokesman said yesterday that the number of worms has been falling as a result of treatments applied by the stadium groundstaff.

The nematode worm problem first came to light at the stadium last September. A number of players have since suggested that the looseness of the turf had hindered them, particularly when scrummaging or trying to change direction at speed.

However, according to a report from the Union's turf consultants, the number of worms reaching adulthood - the stage at which they do most damage by attacking the roots of the pitch grass - is now under control. Work is continuing to reduce their numbers, but it is likely to require a sustained spell of good growing weather, rare in a Scottish winter, before any improvements become noticeable.

Scotland will play two RBS 6 Nations Championship matches at Murrayfield in the near future - against England on February 8 and France exactly one month later. Some remedial patching may have to take place before then. Despite suggestions to the contrary, there is no realistic prospect that Edinburgh's forthcoming games will be moved from the stadium, although it is understood that some other matches, such as schools fixtures, could be relocated.

Edinburgh, meanwhile, have added new fly-half signing Carl Bezuidenhout to their Heineken Cup squad for the rest of the season, with the South African taking the place of Piers Francis, who is unavailable due to a long-term injury. The club also confirmed the departure of Tony Fenner, who arrived last month for a trial period but was unable to get any game time.

Meanwhile, the International Rugby Board has confirmed that it will not give its approval to any cross-border competitions that are not sanctioned by their respective governing bodies, a move provoked by suggestions that the four Welsh regional clubs want to join English clubs in the proposed Rugby Champions Cup.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "In the interests of the global game, the IRB reaffirms it will not support any cross border competitions not approved by the Unions of any participating clubs, Rugby bodies and host countries in full accordance with IRB Regulations."

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