Rugby Union: Catt `pay' normal in SA

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Mike Catt, the England full-back, was yesterday publicly cleared of impropriety by the Rugby Football Union even though he had admitted - equally publicly - to being paid for playing in his native South Africa two years ago, writes Steve Bale. Strange as it may seem given that rugby union is supposedly an amateur game, this was the only verdict the RFU could decently reach. That said, Catt is not completely out of the woods, because his case and the RFU's decision about it will come before theInternational Board's annual meeting in March.

"I'm very relieved," Catt said yesterday. "If the International Board is still not satisfied, then a number of players whom I appeared with back in South Africa would also be implicated."

The union found that Catt was one among many Eastern Province players paid lump-sum expenses of around £140 a week for one month in 1992.

The IB found this to be an improper practice in 1993 and instructed the South African RFU to act accordingly. Lump-sum expenses were then discontinued, the RFU says. Twickenham's response to the original allegation was to deny any responsibility - which caused the IB to get on its high horse and demand some action.

However, it would have been utterly unjust for the RFU to have done anything to Catt when at the time of the "offence" everyone else playing for Eastern Province, and quite probably throughout South Africa's Currie Cup unions, was being treated preciselythe same.

Catt is due to win his fourth cap for the land of his mother against France at Twickenham on Saturday week. The England selectors have delayed naming their unchanged side from today until tomorrow because they have also had an A team to choose to face the French at Leicester on international eve.

n Martin Scott, the hooker who was the first player in English rugby to be shown the red card, has not been suspended. The Lancashire disciplinary committee decided the dismissal, for kneeing an opponent in the back on his Orrell debut at Leicester on 14January, was sufficient. Scott was capped in Australia in 1992 while at Dunfermline and, after a couple of seasons with Edinburgh Academicals, had just qualified for league rugby with Orrell. His sending-off cost him a place in the Scotland A team who lost to France last Friday but he will now be eligible for the A game against Ireland on Friday week.