Rugby diary: Sadly, Hadley has his doubts

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WHILE four of the Five Nations commence the Championship this weekend, the Scots, the fifth and weakest of the lot on present form, have the chance to slip from their sickbed with a match against Canada. Scotland have not won in nine games, but C anada would appear to provide the ideal tonic: they were defeated in all their six tour matches last month and morale sunk so low that Norm Hadley, their Wasps lock forward, considered absenting himself from the Scotland match altogether.

As it happens, Hadley will miss the game anyway because of back trouble which last week required an epidural. "You don't mind taking time off from work if you can come out with a positive sporting experience," he says, "but you've got to make sure the sacrifice is worth it . . . There was a lot of negativity surrounding the tour, and if we continue like this, then we're bound for humiliation in the World Cup."

Hadley believes Canada are in trouble. He says that victories over Wales in late 1993 and France last summer do not reflect the state of the nation ("Wales were completely inept"). He adds that Canada have missed out on the advances that others in the game have been making and he hopes that "the tour is used as a big, big wake-up call". This will be hard, though, with the tour still plaguing the team. The squad flew back here on Friday without Gord Mackinnon, a senior player and first choice open-side flanker: he is being disciplined for disruptive behaviour.

Mackinnon's misdemeanours are three-fold: complaining to a waitress in Besancon; criticising team management for not sacking their coach driver who hit a parked car on the way to Toulon; and being two minutes late for a bus due to leave at 5.30am on their final morning. "That's how petty the charges are," he says. "Over a dozen of the players have rung and they are all pretty upset about it."

Hadley is sympathetic to Mackinnon's sympathisers. "The tour was extremely disappointing, disgraceful. So this is a time when everyone should be working together," he says. "I worry when people start wanting to hang the blame on others and I think there is a bit of that here." As Mackinnon adds: "This is the most disruptive thing that could have happened."

On two occasions when the tourists were at their lowest they called meetings to thrash out their problems. Little appears to have been achieved. Mackinnon, meanwhile, may yet play at Murrayfield, as the Canadian RFU are considering lifting the ban that the tour's management team placed on him. His arrival in Edinburgh may boost the team, or it may just remind them of their troubled past.

A SMALL piece of history was made in Redruth last weekend, and the man at the centre of it was none too chuffed. The first red card ever to be flourished in English rugby was shown - to Ian Sewell, the Aspatria prop. Sewell had never been sent off before, or even cautioned. "It may be the sort of thing I'll tell my grandchildren about, but I haven't seen the funny side yet," he said. The referee, Gareth Ashton-Jones, was more circumspect about his contribution to the rugby union history books. "Fame forsomething," he said. "I thought there might be a chance that I was the first."

CHANGING-ROOM robbery in the game is rife. Last week we heard of the bogus player who would change with the team and then steal their valuables; this week, the Staffordshire police are warning local clubs about a bogus official who is making a habit of welcoming visiting teams off their buses, showing them to their changing-rooms and then inviting them to pour their valuables into a bag which he, of course, says he will not let out of his sight. The bogus official is between 40 and 50 years old, well-spoken, smart and possesses a good knowledge of the game. You have been warned.