Carling to carry on as captain

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The Independent Online
Will Carling will extend his world captaincy record in the forthcoming season after being asked to lead England for an eighth consecutive campaign.

"I had a meeting with England manager Jack Rowell recently and he asked me to carry on as captain," Carling said yesterday. "It was very pleasing to be reappointed because World Cups are always a watershed. But I made my decision to carry on playing for England and I want to ensure that we go forward as a squad, even though I will not be part of the 1999 World Cup effort."

Carling, who will be 30 in December, has been England captain in all but seven of his 60 internationals. They have won 40 of those, lost 12 - including the last two against New Zealand and France in the World Cup - and drawn one.

He was temporarily relieved of his post in May after describing the full committee of the Rugby Football Union as "57 old farts" in an off-the- cuff remark on television.However, he was reinstated two days later by the then-president Dennis Easby after apologising to the committee.

Earlier this week, Carling led the negotiating team who completed a big- money deal with the RFU. He took over the negotiating role - along with Mike Catt, Tim Rodber and Martin Johnson - after Brian Moore and Rob Andrew withdrew from their positions as the senior players on the panel. Carling, Catt, Rodber and Johnson then concluded their promotional deal with Twickenham that should bring in more than pounds 40,000 for the regulars.

"We have reached an agreement in principle. The details have yet to be worked out," he said of the negotiations. "But it was obvious that the young players wanted an arrangement with the Rugby Union and with goodwill on both sides it was easy to arrive at a harmonious set-up for the future.

"Those close to the negotiations will be explaining the prospects to other members of the squad and we will be assuring them that we have hammered out a very, very good deal."

With England following several other nations in a joint venture that pays the players through sponsors and the union, the International Board debate on amateurism in Paris this week has to some extent been pre-empted.

Yesterday's second session of the meeting was expected to be dominated by the proposed European Championship and the Carling-brokered sponsorship deal for the England players.

Delegates debated whether eight or 12 clubs will take part in the new European tournament, which could be launched next year or as soon as next November.

Hotel staff members were asked to keep the media away and the IB media officers insisted that no information would be released before a news conference scheduled for Sunday.

The Paris meeting, which will be followed by a council meeting in Tokyo next month and by the annual congress of the Board in London in January, should redefine the notion of amateurism.