Rugby Union: Callard's apology is a sign of the new times

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The Independent Online
England players about to have professional contracts thrust upon them now know that under their terms they will be confined to the blandest public pronouncements after Jonathan Callard yesterday had to apologise for criticising the referee of last Saturday's Bath-Saracens match.

Tony Hallett, the Rugby Football Union secretary, will have the contracts with him at the England session at Marlow tonight when Callard, who is hoping to regain his place at full-back against South Africa on 18 November, can expect an official reproof.

His offence was to call Steve Lander's refereeing "appalling and embarrassing" on Sunday's Rugby Special, even though Bath had won the game 52-16. Yesterday Callard said: "It was probably an unwise remark and I apologise for it. But all top players are hoping that the whole referee issue will be sorted out so that there can be more enjoyment for all concerned, including the referees."

Such outspokenness will not be tolerated under the professional regime. "Something as fundamental as criticising referees in public should be avoided," Hallett said. "It will not be possible to do that in the future when players will be contracted and conditions laid down. It was certainly a pity that he chose to make his comments on TV, where we all have to be careful.

"In the new era of an open sport, much more advice will be available to players in an effort to eliminate this sort of comment made impromptu and under the pressure of a TV interview."

The England team, with Will Carling a racing certainty to continue as captain, will be named on Wednesday. The Springboks will be without Balie Swart, who has a groin injury and will be replaced at prop against both Italy on 12 November and England by the uncapped Toks van der Linde.

Scotland, too, are on the verge of agreeing professional contracts, certainly in time for the Western Samoa game on 18 November, when they will be without the concussed Scott Hastings.

After the trauma of losing four players to Newcastle, Wasps were relieved to have some good news to announce yesterday: the pounds 2.5m redevelopment of their ground at Sudbury in north-west London and the creation of a regional rugby centre of excellence.

The main pitch will be turned 90 degrees and the present capacity of around 4,000 increased to an all-seated 7,500, with room to add. The club yesterday applied for planning permission to Brent council, from which they have acquired 4.5 acres of land to provide extra playing space and car parking. Work is due to start next April and be completed by Christmas 1996.

West Hartlepool, bottom of the First Division, are to hold a crisis players' meeting this week to discuss the resignation of their captain, Phil Lancaster. Cardiff have again been rebuffed by Warrington in their efforts to repatriate Jonathan Davies from English rugby league to Welsh rugby union, despite having increased their offer for the Wales RL captain from pounds 30,000 to pounds 55,000.

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