Rugby Union: Andrew fear over lack of sponsor

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

DAVID LLEWELLYN

Rob Andrew last night expressed concern over the protracted negotiations between the England players and the Rugby Football Union. The talks are aimed at trebling the players' earnings for promotional work with the help of a new, as yet unnamed, shirt sponsor.

Pressure of work has forced Andrew off the players' negotiating team and his place has now been taken by the England captain, Will Carling, as they step up attempts to take the players' earnings from last year's pounds 16,000 to what is expected to be a sum in excess of pounds 50,000.

But Andrew said: "All of these figures are coming out of the ether. It's not money that the RFU are giving, it's all new money, which they are trying to sort out with a new shirt sponsor. Nothing's been signed. They are clearly talking to one or two people but a deal of that magnitude still has to be signed."

Andrew was angered at suggestions that he resigned because he had lost credibility with the rest of the squad after apparently having unofficial talks with WRC representatives. "It is purely work commitments that have prompted my resignation," he said yesterday.

He is concerned about the immediate future, particularly since the Kerry Packer-backed World Rugby Corporation looks to have abandoned hope of setting up a professional series.

"The southern hemisphere players have done extremely well out of it all, as we always knew they would. Now it's down to the northern hemisphere unions to ensure that their players are not disadvantaged. We will be playing South Africa, who will be professional by then, in a matter of weeks, and Wales play them next month," he said.

Uncertainty still surrounds Jonah Lomu's destiny. The 20-year-old winger is being chased by two rugby league clubs, Leeds and Sydney Bulldogs of Australia, both of whom have offered substantially more than the pounds 100,000 per year the New Zealand Rugby Football Union has offered All Blacks. Lomu's agent, Debbie Tawse, has not said what offer from the NZRFU would satisfy her client.

One man who is happy with the NZRFU offer is the All Blacks captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, who has signed up with his union, like his team-mates Jeff Wilson and Josh Kronfeld. Fitzpatrick said he expected most of the All Blacks to follow suit. Ian Jones, Frank Bunce, Robin Brooke and Norm Hewitt were last night all said to be on the point of doing so.

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