Drop goal gorgeous

As Rob's kick fell to earth, amateurism went with it.
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The Independent Online
It is an irresistible temptation to identify the second or so it took Rob Andrew's drop goal to go from boot to posts and so beat Australia in Cape Town as a watershed for English rugby union just as much as England rugby.

As it turned out, the World Cup quarter-final on that exquisite day in June was the zenith of England's World Cup achievement, the subsequent defeats in the semi-final by New Zealand and the third-place match by France marking the end for the last remnants of the old guard who had seen England through their most prosperous era.

And with the change in the team came the change in the game. Seventy- eight days after England had beaten Australia, rugby union turned professional. How appropriate, we might now say with hindsight, that it was Andrew who saw out the old, for he personifies the new. It was Andrew who was the hardest-nosed players' negotiator when the England squad were ringing in the professional age; he has become the highest-paid of the new professionals.

It is curious to recall that the same hard-nosed Andrew, supposedly receiving pounds 150,000 a year as rugby development director of Newcastle United Sporting Club, has always been seen as the player whom any woman would like as her son-in-law.

He can be said to have symbolised the best of amateurism at a time when every other box-office sport had long since and unashamedly embraced professionalism. Approachability and affability are not universally endorsed as essentials for the professional sportsman and Andrew the amateur had both in abundance.

And he still has. Yet to hear him now is to appreciate how much he - or perhaps that should be rugby - has changed. Amateurism having departed with his famous drop goal, professionalism is suddenly England rugby's only salvation against the likes of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

"It is almost a cultural change we need in the northern hemisphere," he said. "It means being professional about winning from an early age. It's the only way the likes of Scotland, Ireland and England can live with the southern hemisphere. We have to make playing at a higher level and winning important."

These remarks, made in a television programme over the weekend that reviewed the 1995 World Cup, mark a cultural change in themselves. Andrew is in the marketplace to buy a team for Newcastle - no different in principle (only in the number of noughts on the contracts) from Kevin Keegan, his Newcastle football counterpart.

Rugby union's problem used to be articulating the justification for its amateurism to a wider public used to professional sport. This was particularly so in England, where the extreme reluctance with which the governing body, the Rugby Football Union, greeted earlier liberalisations of the amateur code incensed their international players to the point of complete breakdown between administrators and those they administered.

Now full-blown professionalism has been inflicted (as some at Twickenham see it) on the game, the RFU is struggling to come to terms with amateurs running a professional game. Why else would the RFU's full committee - the "57 old farts" of Will Carling's notorious jibe - resist the advice of its own commission on professionalism to give its executive a more business-like feel by calling it the board of management?

Andrew, retired from international rugby, is under no such constraints at Newcastle. He was appointed by Sir John Hall not to play a game but to do a job of work, which is what rugby at its most exalted levels has become in 1995. The old went out when Rob Andrew dropped for goal and the rugby world held its breath; now it's in with the new.