Rugby Union diary: Barnes reveals true colours

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The Independent Online
A SIDE-STEP was rarely a problem for Stuart Barnes when wearing his old Bath shirt, but take him off the rugby field and he will tend to play crash-ball with controversy. In the introduction to his autobiography, Smelling of Roses, he wrote that he has redefined himself 'more in the mould of Stefan Edberg than John McEnroe' but proceeded to display little of the Swede's reticence in delivering his opinions.

So as presenter of Sky Sports' live rugby, would he have any problem recruiting his old colleagues as studio guests? Would Will Carling, 'a captain clot', in part responsible for 'the biggest tactical faux pas witnessed at a high level in the annals of rugby union' (Calcutta Cup, 1990), play the pundit? 'Carling has been keen to come on,' says Barnes, as has Rob Andrew, another who fails to come out of the book smelling of roses.

And what of Brian Moore, who has been taking legal advice over allegations of financial mismanagement? 'I can't speak for Brian, but we haven't actually thought of him yet. As far as I know, there's nothing personal between us.'

On air, as yet, Barnes has had no reason to be particularly contentious, probably delivering his harshest sentence on Paul Hull, the Bristol full-back, who was taken to task for his tactical positioning. The word at Sky is that Barnes could brush up on the tricks of the trade - throwaway lines, short links - but that he has filled his new position with aplomb.

His debut was a dummy run at Bath v Barbarians on 3 September after which, he says, 'the lads were laughing, saying they'd never seen me sweat so much on the pitch'. He was back at The Rec for last weekend's Bath v Leicester draw, when a new partisan element manifested itself. 'I don't think the producers had heard such biased comments ever before. I was blowing Jez Harris's kick wide at the end.'

QUESTION: Which two Scottish props were joined in wedlock last year? Answer: Sandy Carmichael (50 caps, late 1960s and 1970s) and Alison Brand (one cap, 1992), a romance which started on the training pitch at West of Scotland where Carmichael is entering his fourth year as coach to the women's team.

Brand is at present injured, though West of Scotland's league season got underway successfully last Sunday: an 81-0 victory over Glasgow University's women. Carmichael's charges at Burnbrae are imbued with a fluid, running style with plenty of ball movement - 'I tend to work with the backs. I don't do the forwards, they're boring' - and this appeared to have paid off last week: plenty of movement in the centres, eight tries for right-winger Dawn Barrie. The carnival continues against Herriot-Watt today.

FROM Sydney, one man watches the movements of the circus-master Jacques Fouroux with particular interest. David Lord attempted a similar circus in 1983 and gives Fouroux little chance this time round. 'I thought it would emerge again,' he says, 'but it'll be harder to get the players, the way they are being paid. He won't get the Australians, they're being well looked after, as are the All Blacks and the South Africans, and unless you get the top five nations, you're not going to have much of a go.' Lord, now promoting golf, feels that his mini-coup 11 years ago was not without effect: 'One thing that came out of it was the World Cup. They only started planning it in 1983 because of my threat. I was the only reason it started.'

SOUTH KOREA lost the final of the Asian World Cup qualifying group yesterday in a 26-11 defeat to Japan, a match where there was clearly more than just a place in the South African sun at stake. Yong Il-Man, a spokesman for the South Korean camp, set the tone by explaining that the game was a chance for revenge for 35 years of Japanese colonisation in the first half of the century. 'In those days it was against the law to hit a Japanese man, ' he said. 'If there was a fight, you had to turn the other cheek. The only way you could take out your frustration was on the rugby field. We played rugby mainly so we could get back at the Japanese. So this game is more than rugby. It is war.'

(Photograph omitted)

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