Rugby Union: Pugh admits need for change

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The Independent Online
Rugby union's inexorable advance - or retreat, depending on your point of view - towards some form of professionalism was implicitly accepted yesterday when the International Board chairman, Vernon Pugh, explained what had happened at last week's autumn meeting in Vancouver.

The IB had had nothing planned until the Rugby Football Union spilled the beans on the certain change in regulations at the March annual meeting to permit the return of rugby league professionals.

Pugh called yesterday's briefing in Cardiff by way of response but scarcely took matters further except to insist that Twickenham does have jurisdiction over Mike Catt, Bath's former Eastern Province player who is being investigated after admitting being paid when playing in South Africa.

As for the wider issue, the IB is coming under unprecedented pressure to recognise that the demands of international rugby have gone way beyond what can any longer decently be called amateur. Thus Pugh, who is heading an IB amateurism working party, admitted yesterday: 'We are making professional demands on certain international players, because of the number of matches, squad sessions and the time commitment.

'There is a recognition that the game has changed quite dramatically. We have to decide what sort of game we want for the next 15 years.

'It's a messy situation. There is a certain lack of uniformity in ensuring regulations are applied. We have a very diverse situation world-wide, so we are seeking to establish exactly what sort of game we are planning for the future.'

Pugh added that a canvass of players had shown 'that a way has to be found to recompense them for the time and effort they put into the game, in some cases jeopardising their careers. Wales played 14 internationals in a year and yet there are people who say it's amateur.'

This was a breathtaking demolition of old attitudes and strongly suggestive that at the very least the IB will in March be considering full broken-time remuneration, the subject that caused the rugby league breakaway a century ago.

Back in the real world, the Springboks' team for tomorrow's game at Llanelli includes the captain, Francois Pienaar, for the first time, but Tiaan Strauss has not recovered from a rib injury.

Having emerged from self-imposed retirement, the Wales flanker, Mark Perego, will play for Llanelli. The Scarlets contain 10 internationals even without Hugh Williams-Jones, who has been dropped in favour of Spencer John at prop.

SOUTH AFRICA (v Llanelli, tomorrow): A Joubert (Natal); C Badenhorst, B Venter (Orange Free State), P Muller (Natal), C Williams; J Stransky (Western Province), J van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal); B Swart, U Schmidt, I Hattingh (Transvaal), M Andrews (Natal), H Hattingh (Northern Transvaal), E van der Bergh (Eastern Province), G Teichmann (Natal), F Pienaar (Transvaal, capt). Replacements: G Johnson, H le Roux (Transvaal), K Putt (Natal), T Laubscher (Western Province), J Dalton, R Straeuli (Transvaal).

Llanelli: I Jones; M Wintle, N Davies, N Boobyer, W Proctor; C Stephens, R Moon (capt); R Evans, R Mbryde, S John, P Davies, A Copsey, P Jones, J Williams, M Perego. Replacements: J Strange, H Harries, H Williams-Jones, P Young, L Williams, I Hembrow.

Will Carling and Brian Moore will be missing from the Harlequins team to play Bath tomorrow. Carling has an ankle ligament problem while Moore is resting his hamstring injury.