Rugby Union: Cotton sings praises of Johnson's captaincy

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CLIVE WOODWARD'S hymn of praise to Martin Johnson as England captain was echoed yesterday by Fran Cotton.

Woodward said that Johnson, who was appointed after drug allegations surrounding Lawrence Dallaglio, "is just as good as Lawrence, if not better" as captain. Cotton, Club England chairman, added: "I am not going to make comparisons between the two men who have led England this year, but I know who I would have. I made Martin captain of the 1997 Lions when I was man-ager and he did a supreme job."

Cardiff and Pontypridd may not resolve the troubled transfer of the Wales stand-off Neil Jenkins until the end of the week. Officials from both clubs were due to meet last night, but Pontypridd's chief executive, Cenydd Thomas, claims nothing will be resolved during the talks.

Cardiff have insisted that the 28-year-old Lions player is their man after a highly public announcement at the Arms Park on Monday. The club's operations director, David Jenkins, said: "As far as we are concerned, Neil is a Cardiff player, although he is still technically not because of his registration. We thought we had reached an agreement and that Neil was free to sign for Cardiff. We are disappointed in the way things have gone since Monday. We feel that the matter will be resolved at this meeting."

The Blue and Blacks say they agreed a deal with Pontypridd's rugby administrator, Eddie Jones, last week, but the Sardis Road team insist that the transfer was not formally concluded. Thomas said that the player had not signed any transfer documents prior to the announcement and, therefore, has not moved.

The Pontypridd official has also defended his club against accusations that they wanted more money out of Cardiff than the pounds 200,000 deal Jones brokered last week. Claims have been made that, because Cardiff lost out in the race to sign the Welsh international full-back Shane Howarth from Sale last Friday when Newport signed him, there is more money to spare for the Jenkins deal. "Our understanding is that Neil is still a Pontypridd player," Thomas said. "We hold his registration and I'm the only one authorised to sign a transfer form - and I haven't done that so far.

"From the standpoint of Neil, if he wants to sign personal terms with Cardiff. That's up to him but they were aware on Sunday that we had not signed any documents.

"This meeting is not all about money. It's about other points. Nothing final will be decided by this meeting but we hope that, by the end of the week, everything will be sorted out."

Llanelli are set to announce the signing of the second-row forward Craig Gillies from Richmond today. They are also ready to name the former Wales international Wayne Proctor as their new captain.

The New Zealand coach, John Hart, has laughed off a claim by his South African counterpart, Nick Mallett, that the All Blacks are successful because they are good cheats.

Mallett, speaking after a defeat by Wales and record losses to New Zealand and Australia, said some of his players were too naive to match it with their southern hemisphere rivals. "It goes back to our inability to cheat intelligently," Mallett said. "A lot of players cheat intelligently," he added, naming the All Blacks Josh Kronfeld and Jeff Wilson.

Hart said he spoke to Mallett after the Dunedin Test and the subject of cheating was never mentioned. However, the loose forward Kronfeld found Mallett's statement worthy of a laugh. "I like the bit about intelligence," Kronfeld said. "It's the first time someone has given me such a high rating for my IQ. I don't know what he means."