RUGBY UNION: Reconciliation in the air as Carling is restored

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The Independent Online


Twickenham's committee men engineered an unprecedented climbdown off their high horses last night to reinstate Will Carling as England's rugby captain 48 hours after sacking him from the job following his injudicious description of the 57 men who run the Rugby Football Union in a television programme last week.

A 40-minute meeting between Carling and the RFU's president, Dennis Easby, at Twickenham yesterday afternoon was followed by a trip to Marlow RFC in Buckinghamshire, where the rest of England squad was gathering in uncertainty for the scheduled training session and the issuing of a joint statement that ended the affair. Easby and Carling travelled in the same car and if the the president looked a trifle uneasy he had good cause.

The mood in Marlow was mean. Placards with slogans such as "Carling Back, Easby Sack" greeted anyone entering the ground, while in the clubhouse there was an undercurrent of indignation that England's rugby captain should have been subjected to these goings-on.

The England players themselves remained with their cars, sombre, speculating, until the sacked captain arrived. There was a slight delay while the England manager, Jack Rowell, was put in the picture before the joint statement was issued and the pair were subjected to a short, sharp cross-examination.

Carling pronounced himself delighted to be back in charge and he praised the action of Easby saying: "It's taken a lot of courage and I have admiration for the president for changing the decision. I bitterly regret what I said about the committee and I hope it now dies down."

Easby was equally conciliatory, saying: "Will and I had a very good meeting and he gave me all the assurances I wanted. I regret very much that it happened and that I had to take that action. I'm delighted it's over. The public will think we are a load of old farts, but what has happened will strengthen relations between the RFU and the players."

National outrage was echoed by the rest of the England squad who requested a reconsideration of the decision and two senior members, Dean Richards and Rob Andrew, also announced that they would not take the job on if asked. That and pressure from Carling's agent resulted in the meeting.

Carling, who has had to make certain undertakings, has been reinstated initially for the duration of the World Cup and subject to certain conditions laid down in the final paragraph of the statement.

The 70-year-old Easby, whose term of office ends in July, said that he had not considered resigning and there was a touch of defiance when he added: "Unless anybody wants me to, but they have to do it constitutionally."

The rest of the England squad also released a statement yesterday in which they pronounced themselves satisfied with a decision they felt was a great boost to their morale. England flanker Tim Rodber said: "It's great news. We are all absolutely delighted. It's been a worrying few days."


"Will Carling wishes to apologise to every member of the committee of the RFU for his inappropriate and gratuitously offensive comment at the end of a recent TV programme.

"All 25 members of England's World Cup squad have indicated their support for Will Carling as captain and have respectively requested the RFU officers to reconsider their decision to terminate his appointment.

"Carling would like to thank the squad for their support and also Dennis Easby for his courage in reconsidering his original decision - thus enabling the England squad to have a settled and successful build-up to the World Cup.

"In the light of these circumstances the RFU are agreeable to reinstate Carling as England's captain for the period of the World Cup, following which the position will come up for review in the normal way.

"This is subject to certain conditions which will remain confidential and the provision of a written undertaking by Carling that he will not say or imply during this period anything which serves to denigrate or bring into disrepute the game or the RFU."