Packer finds favour with England players

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The Independent Online
They think it's all over after the apparent defeat for the Kerry Packer- backed World Rugby Corporation in a South African court last Friday, but yesterday Brian Moore, the England hooker, dropped another pebble into the troubled pool of amateur rugby union.

Speaking on BBC television, Moore said: "There was an England team meeting yesterday. While not everyone was there, it was a unanimous view that the Packer option did two things. It satisfied the financial aspirations of the various players. More importantly, it gave the northern hemisphere the chance to compete with the southern hemisphere in terms of playing, because there is such a big gap between club and international levels.

"The original league structure just is not working. If we are going to get anywhere near these teams that's what we need, and that's what Packer does. And everyone expressed an interest to keep talking to them.

"One of the disappointing things is that we don't have a plan from the RFU. It's all reactive. It's `Money is coming in, what the hell do we do about it now?' It's so disappointing that they had the opportunity to come forward with something and didn't do that."

But, speaking on the same programme, Tony Hallett, the RFU secretary, insisted that the WRC was not being treated lightly by Twickenham. "I take it very seriously as a threat," he said.

Hallett then pleaded with the England players not to join the Packer circus.

"I urge Brian and his colleagues to discard the pyjama-type rugby that they would do. I think it would be a great tragedy if they did do that.

"I see the sense of pursuing Packer while there is an opportunity, and when one feels, if you are a player, that the RFU are still dragging their feet and won't come up with packages that would help both club and England players."

Meanwhile, the All Blacks will be meeting New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU) negotiators today to decide on contracts that have been offered to them by the union.

According to the Sunday Star-Times, the meeting was arranged at the request of the All Blacks. The newspaper speculated that this means that the players are keen to remain with the union and turn their backs on Kerry Packer and the WRC.

Sean Fitzpatrick, the All Black captain, said that it was time for a decision and his players wanted the meeting to settle the issue. "I think that we have explored all the avenues and it has become time to front up and make a decision," he said.

The Test players Jeff Wilson, the winger, and Josh Kronfeld, the forward, are among 70 leading New Zealand players who have already signed with the union.

The NZRFU's chief negotiator, Jock Hobbs, said: "I was cautiously optimistic last week, now you can say I am optimistic."