Leicester yesterday sacked Australian Bob Dwyer and immediately made Dean Richards in charge of first-team affairs. Dwyer, who guided Australia to victory in the World Cup in 1991 and also coached them at the 1995 tournament, loses his job as director of rugby.

He has paid the price for not bringing success to Welford Road this season, and coach Duncan Hall has also been dismissed. Tigers' chairman Peter Tom said: ''At a meeting of the board of directors last night, it was decided not to take up the option to extend the coaching contracts of Bob Dwyer and Duncan Hall. Dean Richards will assume responsibility for first-team affairs with immediate effect. The board expressed their gratitude to Bob and Duncan for successfully establishing a coaching structure and taking the club forward in the professional era.''

Dwyer said he was disappointed by the decision. He released a statement saying: ''I am disappointed to be leaving Leicester after a happy and, I believe, successful stay. My contract was for two years and the club have said they will honour that. It is for others to provide the precise reasons for this decision.

''For my part I would like to thank the key players at the club for their work and support. In my opinion, it has not been an unsuccessful time for Leicester Rugby Club.

''We won the Pilkington Cup and were runners-up in the Heineken European Cup last season, qualified for a place in this season's Heineken Cup and are currently equal third in the Premiership.''

Dwyer added: ''Much unseen work has also been done to ensure a successful future for this club.

''There have been some disappointing results this year, for a variety of reasons, but I was grateful for the backing I received in recent days from the senior players. I wish them the very best for the future.

England wing Austin Healey, who has been known to have disputes with Dwyer, said: ''We had our differences of opinion, but it was not worth building grudges. People have different ideas about rugby. But Bob was an excellent coach.''

Leicester went out in the quarter-finals of the Heineken European Cup this year to Pau, having reached the final last season.

They are already out of the Tetley's Bitter Cup, having won it last year under Dwyer, and are fourth in the Premiership but are eight points behind leaders Newcastle.

qThe Scotland Under-21 selectors have made seven changes, two of them positional, from the side that lost to Ireland in Dublin, for the Under-21 international match against France at Goldenacre on Friday.

The two positional changes concern the deployment of Alan Bulloch, who moves from centre to right wing for the injured Geoff Caldwell, and Jon Petrie who switches from blindside to openside flanker, the position vacated by Iain Sinclair who damaged his ankle in the Ireland match.

Petrie's switch makes way for Campbell Rae to come into the side as the blindside flanker, the Stirling County player fully meriting his selection after a number of impressive performances.

''Campbell's attitude at all times is exceptional. He will give you 200%,'' stated Rob Flockhart, the Scotland Under-21 team manager.

There is also a place in the Scotland Under-21 pack for Rae's Stirling team-mate Charles Keenan - who replaces another Bridgehaugh man Andy Neilson - at hooker. Keenan will be propped by loosehead Alan Jacobsen, the strongly built Preston Lodge player who comes in for the injured Scott Paris.

The other changes are in the threequarters. Graeme Kiddie, is at outside centre where his bulk will be useful to Scotland's defensive game and at left wing where Marcus di Rollo is preferred to Mark Tweedie. Di Rollo who is the only new cap in the side is better known as a centre but, as with the selection of Bulloch on the other flank, this represents a shift in thinking.

''So much of the game is played down the tram lines, both in attack and defence, that it is essential to have better rugby players in the back three,'' said Roy Laidlaw, who apart from his new role as assistant coach to the national side, is in charge of age group rugby at Murrayfield.

In the absence of Sinclair, Watsonians lock Jason White takes over the captaincy from the injured Sinclair. ''Jason has a very positive influence on the side. He leads by example,'' said Scotland Under-21 team manager Rob Flockhart.

Scotland Under-21 (v France Under-21) - S Moffat (Rotherham); A Bulloch (West of Scotland), G Kiddie (Boroughmuir), J Mayer (Watsonians), M di Rollo (Watsonians); G Ross (Heriot's FP), R Sharples (Blackheath); A Jacobsen (Preston Lodge FP), C Keenan (Stirling County), G Hoyle (Aberdeen GSFP), J White (Watsonians) captain, G McCallum (Boroughmuir), C Rae (Stirling County), F Gladstone (Loughborough University), J Petrie (Dundee HSFP).Replacements A Dickson (Selkirk), C Paterson (Gala), D Short (Stirling County), J Osborne (Aberdeen GSFP), C Smith (Melrose), G Kerr (Jed-Forest), J Maclay (Glasgow Hawks).

qIan Jardine, the Stirling County and Scotland centre, has been called into the Scotland A team in place of Graham Shiel who was ruled out after injuring ankle ligaments last Saturday in the Tennent's Premiership match between Watsonians and Melrose.

The Tennent's Premiership divisions one and two play-offs will be from Saturday 14 March to 2 May when Melrose are scheduled to meet Watsonians in what could be a championship decider.

Premiership division 1A - Saturday l4 March West of Scotland v Melrose, Currie v Hawick Saturday 28 March Hawick v Watsonians, West of Scotland v Currie Wednesday 8 April Currie v Watsonians , Hawick v Melrose Saturday 25 April Watsonians v West of Scotland, Melrose v Currie Saturday 2 May Melrose v Watsonians, West of Scotland v Hawick.

Premiership division 1B - Saturday 14 March Jed-Forest v Heriot's FP, Boroughmuir v Stirling County Saturday 28 MarchJed-Forest v Stirling County, Edinburgh Academicals v Boroughmuir Wednesday 8 April Heriot's FP v Boroughmuir, Stirling County v Edinburgh Academicals Saturday 25 April Edinburgh Academicals v Jed-Forest, Stirling County v Heriot's FP Saturday 2 May Boroughmuir v Jed-Forest, Heriot's FP v Edinburgh Academicals.

Premiership division 2A - Saturday 14 March Gala v Glasgow Hawks , Dundee HSFP v Kilmarnock Saturday 28 March Gala v Dundee HSFP, Glasgow Hawks v Kelso Wednesday 8 April Kelso v Gala, Kilmarnock v Glasgow Hawks Saturday 25 April Gala v Kilmarnock, Kelso v Dundee HSFP Saturday 2 May Dundee HSFP v Glasgow Hawks, Kilmarnock v Kelso.

Premiership division 2B - Saturday 14 March Biggar v Kirkcaldy, Peebles v Musselburgh Saturday 28 March Preston Lodge FP v Peebles, Musselburgh v Kirkcaldy Wednesday 8 April Musselburgh v Preston Lodge FP, Peebles v Biggar Saturday 25 April Kirkcaldy v Preston Lodge FP, Biggar v Musselburgh Saturday 2 May Preston Lodge FP v Biggar, Kirkcaldy v Peebles.