It is odd that someone so calm, so methodical, should have made such a dog's breakfast of the recent change in his life

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Of recent England players, the two I have found most rewarding are Rob Andrew and Stuart Barnes. They are, as we know, very different characters. Andrew is a puritan, Barnes a cavalier. Andrew has all the modesty of a young woman in a Victorian painting, whereas Barnes - how can one put this? - sets a justly high estimate on his own capabilities.

Andrew is a quiet man, while Barnes can talk the hind leg off the proverbial donkey.

But there are similarities as well. Both are intelligent and rational. Neither is prone to violence. Both are fine sportsmen who, in a more spacious age, would have played first-class cricket in August.

They are both people with whom one is pleased to have a word. What a pity it is, therefore, that they are both making mistakes which could and should have been avoided.

Barnes has become a columnist in what we old journalists were taught to call Another Newspaper. He also commentates on Sky television. I have not heard him in the latter role because I am not wired for Sky. I may be forced to become so when Rupert Murdoch duly takes over the Five Nations' Championship.

Anyway, I have missed Barnes in his televisual capacity. His written journalism is lively stuff, with one qualification: of late, an element of niggle has not so much crept as bounded into it.

The most corrupting thing in journalism is not the backhander or the freebie, it is personal friendship.

The next most corrupting thing is personal antipathy. It would be extraordinary if Barnes were not a disappointed man. Year in and year out, a player he honestly considered his inferior, Andrew, was preferred at outside-half - although Brian Moore and others believe that, if Barnes had indeed been in that position regularly, England may have played more attractively but would not have won three Grand Slams.

All this is in the past. Barnes should now try to forget it. He has retired with honour and should attempt to see the game through a fresh pair of eyes.

Andrew has half-retired, too. It is odd that someone who is outwardly so calm, so methodical, should have made such a dog's breakfast of the recent change in his life.

To begin with, I question the wisdom of his going to Newcastle at all. They had a good spell in 1976/77, when, as Gosforth they won what was then the John Player Cup in two successive years. But they now strike me as a difficult club to turn round - certainly to the extent envisaged by their entrepreneurial boss, Sir John Hall.

This was my view even before the recent loss of confidence which was reported here by Owen Slot yesterday, and which has apparently followed the announcement of Andrew's arrival.

It may be that the RFU's complicated qualification rules are to blame for the delay in Andrew's appearance. If so, they do no service either to the players or to the clubs. They would never be tolerated in business. Rightly or wrongly, that is what rugby union has now become.

Andrew will find his position as player-manager in peril if he does not produce the results Sir John requires, as will Steve Bates as coach when he joins Andrew later on.

Mention of Bates conveniently brings me to the Wasps. They have conducted themselves in an extraordinarily cack-handed fashion.

I am surprised that their chairman, the greatly-respected Sir Pat Lowrey, a former chairman of ACAS, allowed matters to reach the stage they did.

First, Andrew announced that he was going to Newcastle. This should have been the occasion for the engraved tankard, the carriage clock or both. Unwise he may have been, but he was perfectly entitled to go back north. From that moment, that is where his loyalties lay.

Wasps, however, decided to squeeze the very last drops of juice from the orange. Andrew fell in with this arrangement and also proclaimed his continuing availability for England. He then recruited a player I have always regarded as a walking provocation, Dean Ryan, together with the very different Bates.

At this Sir Pat's patience cracked. Jeff Probyn, an equally wise head from the shop-floor, urged from the beginning that Andrew's proposed journey north entailed a clean break with the London club.

However, it was not Andrew's move but his recruiting activities which caused the final breach.

At the same time, he announced his retirement from international rugby. It has been said that he did this because he would be playing in the Second Division sooner than he had thought. But, as he would have been playing there quite soon anyway, the explanation does not make sense.

He was right to retire - but it could have been managed so much better.