Redpath and Wright pay a high price

Rugby Union
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With the right to payment have come additional responsibilities for the newly professionalised rugby player - such as abiding by his contract - and two of the Scotland team who went three-quarters of the way to the Grand Slam this season were yesterday hit where it hurts: the pocket.

The Lions prop Peter Wright has been fined pounds 2,000 for foul play after a review of Five Nations video recordings by Jim Telfer, the SRU's director of rugby, and an innocuous but unauthorised article in Scotland On Sunday by Bryan Redpath the day after England won at Murrayfield in March has cost the scrum-half pounds 1,000.

Both offences fell under the broad heading of "breach of contract", which for members of the Scotland team is pounds 3,000 each per match plus bonuses which would have amounted to a maximum pounds 25,000 if the Grand Slam had been done. As it was, those who were ever-present - apart, that is, from Wright and Redpath - picked up around pounds 22,000.

Wright's punishment serves an additional useful purpose for Telfer in showing him to be cracking down on discipline after his abortive post- Calcutta Cup citing of Jason Leonard for allegedly punching Rob Wainwright. As for Redpath, the SRU says permission for his article ought to have been granted in advance by Telfer.

Troubles north of the border come at a time when down south peace could be about to break out in the dispute between the major English clubs and their governing body over the administration and financing of club rugby. This becomes a reality on Monday with the end of the Rugby Football Union's season-long moratorium.

A meeting initially planned for yesterday was postponed until tomorrow because of the non-availability of the RFU executive's chairman, Cliff Brittle. However tiresome, the delay has enabled Bill Bishop, the RFU president, to give the clubs the clearest possible indication that he intends to find common ground in his new position as the impartial chairman of the talks.

Bishop has sent a letter to the clubs which one official yesterday described as "incredibly encouraging". Bishop writes of "speeding the talks towards a resolution". He would like to get the entire business sorted out in one sitting.

The president made it clear at the weekend that he has not been brought in "to concede all sorts of points" but for there to be either both a resolution and an accord will require concessions from someone. The 20 clubs who form English Professional Rugby Union Clubs have been insisting that they run, and receive all monies generated by, their own competitions.

Thus far the RFU negotiating team under Brittle has relented on neither, an implacable stance that persuaded Epruc to announce a boycott of next season's RFU competitions. If there is no deal, Epruc says it will secede from the union and proceed on its own.

It seems that Brittle, who is regarded with irredeemable suspicion by Epruc, is now more or less isolated within the executive, though as his mandate came from the totality of the RFU membership at the January special general meeting he has a powerful constituency of support.

The RFU executive meeting last Friday is said to have divided 16-2 in favour of bringing in Bishop, one of the two being Brittle - though at the weekend Tony Hallett, the RFU secretary, said a vote had not been necessary. It is understood Brittle is seeking a meeting with the Third Division clubs and the Second Division chairmen.

A rather different manifestation of professionalism has been dreamed up by Bath and Northampton, champions of the English First and Second Divisions respectively, who will play each other on 10 August in what is being billed as the "20/20" match. It will be televised on Channel 4.

Instead of halves of 40 minutes, the game will be divided into quarters of 20 - hence the title - beginning with 15 players per side and ending with 13, with a variety of experimental rule changes. It is grandiosely suggested that this is rugby as it may look in 25 years' time, doubtless under the twin pressures of entertainment and TV. Which probably says it all.

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