Carling apology wins back captaincy

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The Independent Online
Will Carling resumed the England rugby union captaincy last night after the Rugby Football Union had done its best to cover its acute embarrassment by extracting a grovelling apology for the televised faux pas that led to his temporary downfall.

Carling, 29, will also provide a written guarantee that there will be no repeat of his remarks on the Channel 4 programme Fair Game last Thursday in which he called the members of the RFU committee "57 old farts". There are other unspecified conditions aimed at keeping the prodigal captain compliant. Carling had been dismissed on Saturday after hurried consultations between outraged RFU officers headed by Dennis Easby, the president.

Yesterday, Mr Easby had a 40-minute meeting with Carling at Twickenham before they travelled together to last night's England training session at Marlow Rugby Club in Buckinghamshire. A squad of 26 players leaves for the World Cup in South Africa next Wednesday and the team will have their first match, against Argentina in Durban, on 27 May. Though Carling's reinstatement to lead them is effectively a capitulation by the RFU in the face of public opposition and the united support of the England rugby players for their captain, last night's statement by the RFU heaped as much blame as possible on him.

"Will Carling wishes to apologise to every member of the Rugby Football Union for his inappropriate and gratuitously offensive comment," it said.

"Will Carling would like to thank the squad for their support and also Dennis Easby for his courage in reconsidering his original decision, thus enabling the England squad to have a settled and successful build-up to the World Cup. In the light of these circumstances the RFU are agreeable to reconsidering Will Carling as England's captain for the period of the World Cup, following which the position will come up for review in the normal way."

As Carling long ago indicated his likely withdrawal from the captaincy after the World Cup, he would probably jump rather than give the RFU the satisfaction of pushing him. Although their action against Carling was a fiasco, it seems none of the men who judged him will consider their own position."I regret very much that it happened but I had to take this action," Mr Easby said. "I have no thoughts about resigning." Yet on Sunday there had been "no chance whatsoever" of the decision's being reversed.