Rugby Union: Packer targets England

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A member of England's World Cup squad yesterday confirmed he had been approached to play in a new, "rebel" competition backed by the Australian media magnate Kerry Packer, who is attempting to create a worldwide professional rugby circus in opposition to Rupert Murdoch.

The England player, who did not wish to be named, said the squad had been approached and are discussing their collective attitude in the knowledge that if they sign for Packer and his planned 30-team global competition, they will cut themselves off from traditional rugby union.

According to a report in The Australian, a consortium known as World Rugby Championship is offering players up to pounds 130,000 per season if the competition gets off the ground.

Tony Hallett, the new Rugby Union secretary, said: "I would not expect any England player to commit himself before the International Board meets at the end of August, when we all believe that the earning power of players in the established game will be significantly enhanced.

"We know that agents are trying to set up a circus and are contacting top players, but it does beggar belief that a whole structure for running international rugby can be put in place in a relatively short space of time."