Will Carling firmly believed he had been reappointed England captain a fortnight ago but by last night he had to concede that Jack Rowell, the manager, had not made up his mind and will not do so until the squad for the South Africa match in November is selected towards the end of this month.
This is a perfect example of the cock-up theory of Rugby Football Union administration which took hold with the "old farts" affair before the World Cup in May, the last time Carling ceased to be captain. Then, two days' embarrassment caused an RFU change of mind after Carling had thus described the 57 members of the committee.
What with that and Carling's silly-season connection with the Princess of Wales, the old farts have plenty of ammunition to fire at him and were startled when he revealed last month that Rowell had reappointed him. In fact, it now turns out, the manager had merely asked him if he wished to carry on. "Later there will be a tighter focus on the team, at which point we will pick a captain," Rowell said.
So yesterday Carling hastily drew up this statement: "At no time did I say that I have formally been appointed England captain. I was always aware that the announcement of the England captaincy had to go through official channels. I recognise that nothing has been decided until this happens."
On the other hand, when Carling appeared on an official platform at Twickenham 12 days ago and was introduced as the England captain neither Tony Hallett, the new RFU secretary, nor the panoply of the RFU ranged alongside him had the gumption to demur either then or later.
Indeed yesterday Hallett all but said that, after all, the reappointment was almost a fait accompli: "Will remains captain on the field. He is in pole position. His appointment has yet to come to the table. It is a procedural hitch only." In which case, over to Jack Rowell...
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