Redfern sees red

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The Independent Online
FORMER rugby league players are now allowed to return to rugby union, but not, it seems, in England. Steve Redfern, the Leicester and England prop who signed for the Sheffield Eagles in 1985, has been informed that he can play competition rugby union anywhere in the world bar his own country.

"It's absolutely crazy," said Redfern yesterday. "I've been trying to get back playing for eight years and I can now, finally, play in Wales - anywhere in the world actually - except England."

Last month, the International Rugby Board voted to allow former league professionals to play the amateur code again - though not at international level - after a three-year stand-down period. The RFU, though, has regulations for its own competitions - the Courage League, the Pilkington Cup, the Pilkington Shield and the County Cup - which the IRB has no power to change.

"It is most unlikely that these competition regulations will change," said Dudley Wood, the RFU secretary. "I don't think we want clubs searching for former pros to strengthen their teams." Would the RFU be discussing the situation? "There's no issue. There's nothing to discuss."

Redfern, 36, is now coach at Nuneaton. He is allowed to play friendlies, but not the Cup or league games which form the vast majority of Nuneaton's season. "I'm very unhappy about the situation," Redfern said. The situation, however, is unlikely to change.

ALL eyes will turn to Welford Road on Saturday. There, Leicester play Bath and the Courage Clubs Championship will, most probably, be decided. History points to a Leicester victory: the Tigers have won 55 of the 64 times the two have met on their home patch. However, it is in the last decade that Bath have been all-powerful: they are 5-3 up on league victories. Tickets for the showdown are selling fast, 10,500 of the 14,000 had already gone last Wednesday.

NOT even Leicester v Bath can sell tickets like Naas Botha. The comeback of the former Springbok captain, has caused quite a stir. He played a club match last weekend and rumours soon circulated that he would be playing for Northern Transvaal against Western Samoa three days later. Over 45,000 people turned up, just in case, and found the rumour was wrong. Is there a real chance that the 37-year-old could play in the World Cup? Botha refuses to comment, but Springbok selectors have confirmed there is by picking him for an exhibition game at Ellis Park yesterday.

VICTOR UBOGU went for extra training on Thursday - voice training. Ubogu, an opera buff, joined Bryn Terfel, who is starring in Salom at the Royal Opera House, for a few verses of "Swing Low" and "Cwm Rhondda". Those within earshot reported that the England prop was more in tune on the pitch.