Rugby Union Commentary: Pryor points out priorities: Redruth are cornered by Camborne while London Irish make the most of their annual visit from Old Millhillians

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MODERN rugby has its World Cup, its high profile and the fleeting celebrity of its leading individuals but does it, any longer, have a heart and a soul? All right, the answer is yes - but you will not find the beat strongest at Twickenham.

Instead, I give you the men and women of Cornwall, for whom rugby represents neither a corporate-hospitality opportunity nor a money-making device (though the county union does nicely out of replica black-and-gold jerseys emblazoned with their 15 bezants and the legend 'One And All').

As the 30,000 or more who trek to Twickenham for the Royal Duchy's County Championship final appearances demonstrate, the game is an expression of collective, community identity to be found nowhere else in the land. Alas, it could all be about to end.

The few outsiders at Redruth's Recreation Ground to see Camborne's biggest win there - 40-9 - in 114 years of trying fully appreciated rugby's hold on these splendid people. The old tin-mining towns are separated by only two miles but the gulf between their rugby clubs is nigh-on unfathomable, as reflected in a fixture dispute which nearly meant their Boxing Day tradition was not maintained.

It was a rousing game which Camborne, of National League Four South, were keener to win than Redruth, promotion contenders in National League Three. Hence a startling result. It was watched by 4,000, as good as any rugby union attendance in England on Saturday, and accompanied by more swaying emotion and impassioned crowd involvement than you get in most league matches, let alone a friendly (however unfriendly).

Yet when Redruth, Camborne and the rest come together in Cornish colours, contention ceases, as Yorkshire will find when they visit the Rec, with its Hellfire Corner, in the county semi-final on 20 February. Beyond, the final - and another mass migration to Middlesex - beckons on 17 April. That happens to coincide with the World Sevens at Murrayfield, but if Cornwall comes to Twickenham I know where I would rather be.

We should all enjoy it while we may. Next season, the county matches will take place on the same days as First and Second Division league games. So if Redruth are promoted their players will be confronted with an awful choice. 'It would be a watershed for Cornish rugby,' Bill Bishop, senior Rugby Football Union committee man (next president but two) and Redruth president, said.

In fact Exeter and Havant are better placed, but if not this season maybe next. There were four Redruth players in the Cornwall team who beat Hampshire nine days ago and there have often been more; Cornwall without Redruth is, or certainly has been, unthinkable.

'If it happened we would have to put pressure on our players to play club rather than county rugby,' Terry Pryor, the Redruth coach, said. 'They've come to realise that Third Division football is of a higher standard than the County Championship, that the County Championship has become a second-class competition. Perhaps some of our reserves might play for the county.'

Try telling that to the lads who have walked out at HQ. Pryor was an England B captain who propped the Cornish scrum 55 times and never had his loyalties divided for him, though Kevin Thomas, Redruth captain and Cornwall full- back, is of much the same mind. 'Things are becoming much more orientated to league football and if it came to the crunch I would expect players to play for Redruth.'

The rest of us can only imagine how it hurts a Cornishman to say so, even if Thomas has a simpler solution. 'I don't personally think we'll win the league,' he said. Certainly not if Redruth play as they did on Saturday. Camborne performed outstandingly up the slope to contain Redruth and then produced rugby of great fluency and imagination to trounce them in the second half.

Redruth excused themselves by noting the absence of half a team injured or, in the case of their policemen, engaged in a murder inquiry, as well as the match's relative irrelevance. But clubs throughout the country would do themselves a favour if they treated all their fixtures as competitively as Camborne did this one.

They mopped up the line-out, not least through their well-girthed captain Tom Adams, and had a steady accumulator in Darren Chapman, the outside-half who has been kicking all Cornwall's points. They had contrastingly penetrative runners on the wings in the tenacious Les Smitham and the daintier Ian Pollard, and a relentless trio of back-row support players.

The deserving No 8, Jon Polglase, scored the first-half try followed by two from the mobile hooker, Steve Richardson, and two right down in Hellfire Corner by the full-back, David Weeks. All Redruth managed was Thomas's penalties, after the third of which Camborne amassed 34 points without reply.

The Rec will be packed with 15,000 when Yorkshire are there and the RFU's tills will ring again if Cornwall win. Their Twickenham visit last year, when they lost to Lancashire, put something like pounds 5,000 the way of each and every RFU county; small wonder the Cornish would welcome some overdue reciprocation.

How about New Zealand against the South-West at Redruth next autumn? No, that is assigned to Gloucester. The Emerging England side? No, that will be at Exeter (capacity 6,000). There will even be a third tour fixture in the region, when the All Blacks play Combined Services at Devonport.

Redruth last staged such a match when South-West Counties lost 30-7 to New Zealand 20 years ago. 'We have the second-biggest club ground in the country (after Leicester) and we would have filled it, just as we have virtually filled Twickenham when we've been there,' Bill Bishop said.

'We really feel disappointed. Cornwall and our supporters have made a lot of money for the RFU in recent years and it would have been an appropriate gesture for the union to give the Cornish people a game.' With which it is impossible to disagree.

Redruth: Penalties Thomas 3. Camborne: Tries Richardson 2, Weeks 2, Polglase; Conversions D Chapman 3; Penalties D Chapman 2; Drop goal D Chapman.

Redruth: K Thomas (capt); J Willis, S Moyle, S Enoch, A Knowles (J Stephens, 50); M Handley, C Read; A Ellery, J Clifton-Griffiths, E Cowie, D Roberts (J Eslick, 25), S O'Sullivan, A Curtis, J Wedlake, G Williams.

Camborne: D Weeks; L Smitham, P Gadsdon, A Kitching, I Pollard; D Chapman, A Chapman; S Hood, S Richardson, S Lord, T Adams (capt), S Pinnegar, C Morgan, J Polglase, K Penrose.

Referee: A Pearce (Exeter).

Results, Sport in Short, page 19

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