BY DAVID LLEWELLYN
Will Carling can carry on as the England captain after the World Cup according to Bill Bishop, who takes over as president of the Rugby Football Union in July.
Carling was stripped of the captaincy at the weekend because of his injudicious televised comments about the RFU. He was reappointed on Monday, but only for the duration of the World Cup. The captaincy, as Dennis Easby, the current office-holder, explained during the furore, is a matter for the president, on the recommendation of the England management.
Yesterday Bishop said: "I would totally support Will as captain when I am president, if he is willing to carry on after the World Cup. I count him as a friend. I have always supported him.
"I am relieved that it has all been settled. It has been an awful 48 hours or so and yesterday was very unpleasant." Bishop, 65, is anxious to put the whole Carling affair into the background, and he appealed to RFU members not to call for an emergency meeting at which no doubt the members would call for the resignation at least of Easby. Easby yesterday reiterated his keenness to see out his year in office.
"I would have thought an EGM would be counter- productive now," Bishop said. "If they want to be punitive about the rest of us, well that's a different issue, but I feel that there is little more that can be done now, other than to try to go forward."
However, the early signs are that Bishop faces a difficult task in smoothing the troubled waters. Peter Wheeler, the former England international and president-elect of the league champions, Leicester, yesterday called for a vote of no confidence in the president and officers of the RFU.
Writing in the London Evening Standard, he said: "When you play for England, you don't play for the RFU committee. You are playing for every club and player in England, and the committee are supposed to be representing those hundreds and thousands of people in making their decisions. Will Carling is not that particular committee's personal property. . . What has happened in the last 72 hours cannot be allowed to quietly die away."
Bishop also held out the prospect of the players making more money from the game than they have so far. "We have plans in mind, which may be announced before the squad go to South Africa next week, that will be to their benefit," he said.
This season's squad are already expected to make £10,000 each, going up to £15,000 next season, according to RFU figures. One sponsor has already guaranteed the squad £5,000 apiece for the World Cup campaign, and there will be further money from sponsors and broadcasters, which means that any player in the squad from September 1994 through to March 1996 is guaranteed £30,000.
Bishop did admit that the speed of events over the weekend rather caught him out. "I thought we were in an ongoing discussion actually," he explained. "I thought we might have seen Jack Rowell and Will Carling, but it all happened at a rate of knots.
"It was discussed on Friday evening, but there wasn't any formal vote or anything. The president did seek the views of the officers at the meeting, but it went apace. Everything happened quicker than I anticipated.
"My main aim as incoming president is to build a few bridges and to try to put this matter behind us. I feel that we must get together with the players and form a united front. I think the players have felt that we have let them down. The southern hemisphere have probably been closer to their players than we have been to ours."
Bishop will be able to count on backing for his progressive outlook from the former England captain, Bill Beaumont, who joins the committee in July.
Speaking on Radio Five Live yesterday, Beaumont said: "The demands on the modern player and also the popularity of the modern game have perhaps left the rest of officialdom behind. I think the important thing is that the players and the committee have to get a lot closer so they both understand the respective problems."
n Billy Blythe, the Murrayfield prop, has been banned until 2000 by the Scottish Rugby Union following an off-the-ball incident in a match against Leith Academicals. The incident was not seen by the referee, and the SRU took the unprecedented step of taking evidence from spectators. Murrayfield were meeting last night to consider an appeal.
n Christophe Deylaud, the French stand-off, is out of the World Cup after fracturing his thumb during the French championship on Saturday.Reuse content