Rugby Union: Carling attacks administrators: Lively Courage launch

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AS a launch, yesterday's for the Courage Clubs' Championship hardly suffered from any shortage of a slipway at Twickenham, and a very slippery one it was, too. The English season kicks off this weekend and the league programme opens on Saturday week - a long, hard winter followed by next summer's World Cup in South Africa.

Enter Will Carling to spice up the menu with his thoughts on the game and the pressures surrounding today's players. And, at the rugby establishment's headquarters, England's captain revealed the divide between those who play and those who administrate. Many wonder how it will be crossed.

Carling and company are at loggerheads with the Rugby Football Union probably as never before and here the two sides stated their case. At least they appear to be talking, even if an invitation to Carling resulted in criticism.

Referring to pressure, Carling said: 'It's something the players talk about all the time. . . the problem of club loyalty versus country. We desperately need a lead from the Rugby Union.' Which meant he felt it was not forthcoming.

'Rugby has to accept there is an elite and we have to treat them differently,' Carling said. 'There's a squad of England players who need to have a structured season so they will be at their peak for the World Cup. I'd like the league games moved from April to December to run alongside the divisionals.'

Jack Rowell, the England manager, said: 'There is no perfect solution to the fixture congestion that will be involving our players. I just hope we can compete on reasonably similar terms with our main rivals next year. I wanted players to rest in April, but I realised there are conflicting commitments.'

The RFU does not appear to have eased the problems with a decision to relegate only one club from the First Division this season, with one promotion spot available in the Second. John Jeavons-Fellows, chairman of the RFU's competition sub- committee, said. 'If the answers were easy, we would have a solution in place. They are not.' And Carling's bottom line. 'We've got to be fresh and I believe that means playing no more than 22 to 24 games. That will be my limit.'

On a brighter note, Jeremy Guscott resumes training on Monday. The England centre has been plagued by a deep-seated pelvic injury that cost him seven caps last season. He said, however: 'There is still no proposed date for a return to match play.'