Easby cleared by the RFU

RUGBY UNION
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The Independent Online
The dust of the Will Carling affair was finally swept up and disposed of yesterday morning by the 18-man executive of the Rugby Football Union following a meeting in the East India club in London.

The result of a day-long meeting was complete exoneration for the RFU president, Dennis Easby, for his conduct throughout the sacking and subsequent reinstatement of Carling as England captain last weekend.

In a statement issued late yesterday afternoon Easby was given full and unequivocal backing for his actions as the RFU made a concerted effort to put the affair behind them.

The statement read: "The executives of the RFU met this morning and received the officers' report concerning the dismissal and subsequent reinstatement of the England captain.

"The executive supported the reasons for the action taken and fully accepted the apology and undertakings given by the England captain. They also endorsed the manner in which the president and the England captain subsequently resolved the difficulties.

"It is the joint and earnest wish of the RFU and the England squad that the matter be regarded as closed and all our attention is focused on what we all hope will be England's successful challenge for the World Cup."

Carling's sacking for injudicious comments about the RFU committee, after a hastily convened meeting of the RFU's officers last Friday evening, had provoked nationwide outrage.

But Easby then agreed to meet Carling at Twickenham and the Harlequins centre was reinstated on Monday after public apologies for his remarks and subject to certain undertakings.

The executive were already scheduled for a meeting yesterday and their reaction to the affair could well have averted further calls for resignations among the 57-strong committee.

But Carling seems fated to be entangled in controversy, whatever form it takes. The England manager, Jack Rowell, had to apologise for Carling's absence from Thursday night's RFU awards dinner.

Carling was away on business, but Rowell joked: "Will is doing community service." But throughout the evening, each time Carling appeared on a film of the season's highlights, he was cheered by dinner guests, while Easby was greeted with polite silence when he welcomed guests.

Another centre in the news is Australia's Tim Horan, who has not played in a Test match for more than a year. He is poised to win a place in Australia's team when they begin their defence of the World Cup against South Africa in Cape Town on 25 May.

Horan has played six games since recovering from a severe knee injury, suffered during last year's Super 10 final between Queensland and Natal in Durban, but yesterday the Australian coach, Bob Dwyer, said: "He looks pretty much his old self to me. I would challenge anyone to see anything wrong with his running. He is a contender for sure."

Dwyer quashed rumours that he was considering switching Horan to full- back, where Matt Pini has been struggling to find his form. "I don't know where that one came from," Dwyer said. "We already have a couple of full- backs." The team is due to be announced on 20 May.

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