A Carling raspberry for Rugby old guard

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The Independent Online

Will Carling has ensured that his England team sets off next week for the rugby union World Cup in South Africa with less than the full support of the men who run the English game by calling them "57 old farts".

Carling's position as England captain is so inviolate that he can tell tonight's Channel 4 programme Fair Game: "If the game is run properly as a professional game, you don't need 57 old farts running rugby."

The 57 members of the Rugby Football Union committee is ultimately responsible for his appointment.

One of the 57, Mark Bailey, may be interested to hear himself described as an "old fart" since, though a Cambridge history don, he is a mere 35 and won four of his seven England caps in the same threequarter line as Carling. England team manager Jack Rowell is also a member of the "old farts".

Tonight's programme claims to have "discovered" the RFU makes £12m annually from the efforts of its players. "It's probably the only multi-million- pound business that doesn't pay its employees," Rob Andrew, the England outside-half, says.

Carling finds the continuation of amateurism intolerable. "There seems to be an awful lot of things the union now do to make money out of the sport, but there's still this feeling that the players should not make any money out of it," he says.

Just as well, then, that the International Rugby Board will make a massive jump away from amateurism at a special meeting in August.

But for now, Dudley Wood, soon to retire as RFU secretary, can carry on giving the contrary view.

"We are very lucky in having run a sport for well over 100 years which is played for pleasure and not for financial reward," he tells the programme. "We believe we are running a sport as a recreation for players to play in their spare time. I think money is a corrosive influence."

With the RFU grossing about £1m from each international match at Twickenham, Carling has this answer to that: "It has become more than a fun game. You don't have 70,000 people turning up to watch people having a bit of fun and recreation. You don't have a World Cup for fun and recreation."

Mr Wood said last night: "Will is his own man and will make his own comments. Of course I'm fortunate: I'm not a member of the committee, so it's clear he didn't have me in mind. If he did make that comment, it tells you more about Will than the committee."