Recording all the names that matter; BOOK OF THE WEEK

The Save & Prosper Rugby Union Who's Who 1996/97 edited by Alex Spink (Collins Willow, pounds 9.99)
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The Independent Online
The recent outbreak of acronymitis while rugby union has been sub-dividing itself in the new age of professionalism has produced a string of semi-autonomous units from Erc and Erf to Epruc, FDR and, of course, SFDR, not forgetting the good old RFU, only adding to the confusion surrounding the state of the game and who is actually running it.

Thankfully the seventh edition of Who's Who restores some sanity; rather than struggling to comprehend who is running what for whom and why, Alex Spink's comprehensive volume concentrates on the most important names - the players.

The latest edition begins with a revealing survey. While a majority of English club players (49 per cent) want to become full-time professionals, some 85 per cent were unhappy with the way the move to professionalism was handled, with Will Carling awarding the administrators one out of 10 for their efforts.

An overwhelming majority of players feel they have a duty to entertain, with Lawrence Dallaglio recognising that rugby is in competition with other pursuits, saying: "We are competing for the public's leisure pound, so we absolutely have to provide an attractive product."

The grey dawn of professionalism is covered, country by country, by some of the game's most respected observers around the world with the revelation that one French club, Argeles-sur-Mer, having won promotion to Division One last season, have declined to accept the place for economic reasons. Sean Fitzpatrick rubbishes English clubs' rush to acquire overseas stars. "I don't think it does the club scene any good," said the New Zealand captain, who was guaranteed a minimum NZ$250,000 a season for the Super 12, national championship and a 10-Test programme.

The South African viewpoint reveals that those Springboks who won the World Cup but are no longer on the international scene are still entitled to draw their not insubstantial salaries for a further two and a half years. In Australia the battle lines have been drawn up between the codes, with union's chief executive, John O'Neill, saying there is an opportunity to make up ground on league. But union is still sixth in Australia's sporting Top 10, behind, among others, basketball.

In addition to the comment and an excellent record of international matches, there is also a superbly presented section on individual players from the top countries; these are not just thumbnail sketches of players who made international appearances last season, they are detailed portraits incorporating appearances, points scored as well as substantial biographies.

Spink has done his homework well for a vital volume which has earned the respect of players, journalists and fans alike. This is the Burke's Peerage of rugby union.

David Llewellyn

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