RFU find solution to circus elusive

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Rugby Union

Twickenham's attempt to keep the leading England players out of the clutches of Australian tycoons bearing gifts amounting to six-figure sums remained unresolved last night after the two sides had exchanged views - and figures - at a meeting in London.

The Rugby Football Union, through Colin Herridge, who as the media liaison officer has been the committee man closest to the England team over the past few years, had warned that there would be no resolution of the difficulty yesterday. Malcolm Phillips, chairman of the RFU players' working party, was content to stick rigidly to that line, i.e. no "peace on our time".

"The players' working party representing the Rugby Football Union and the national squad have held further talks on updating and progressing the co-operation between them," Phillips, an England centre of the Sixties, said when he arrived home in Bolton last night. "Various matters are under active review and consideration."

As a politician, Neville ("peace in our time") Chamberlain would have been proud of Phillips's non-statement, but it is evident that the issue of whether the players take Packer's money - up to pounds 140,000 according to the most optimistic estimates - or stick with the annual pounds 30,000 they are being guaranteed by the RFU has still to be decided.

The union has mounted a calculated campaign this week to rubbish the Packer proposals, which appear to be based on the hope of television revenues rather than the expectation of mass signings. Packer is said to want to sign 900 players worldwide to participate in a new, unofficial international competition and a provincial/club sub-structure beneath it.

The union's line of reasoning is that their money - much of it generated by a jersey-sponsorship deal due to be announced before the start of the new season - is certain, whereas the Packer money depends fundamentally on the players' signing for him rather than being there up front.

Phillips, asked whether he had applied any pressure on those with whom he talked yesterday, replied: "That's a matter solely for the players." Like Carling, Andrew, Moore and Rodber, this one is destined to run and run.

n David Campese has been recalled to the Australian squad to face New Zealand in the second Bledisloe Cup Test on Saturday, with a place on the reserves bench. He was drafted in when utility back Daniel Herbert was ruled out with a hamstring injury.