Rugby Union: RFU wages war on South Africa: Attacks on professionalisation of game dominate AGM

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ENGLISH rugby launched a full-scale attack last night on the South African-led professionalisation of the amateur game that was witnessed when England were on tour in the Republic. 'Our recent visit to South Africa has revealed without any shadow of doubt that South Africa pays players, contrary to the regulations,' Denis Easby, the new Rugby Football Union president, told the RFU's annual general meeting in London.

'They are headed by a president who pays scant regard to those principles we hold dear,' Easby, a former referee from Berkshire, added. This was a reference to the South African RFU president, Louis Luyt, whose scorn for English amateur scruples so upset Easby in South Africa.

The outgoing RFU president, Ian Beer, had used the South African example to make a passionate plea against the supposed depredations of professionalism, calling on the International Rugby Board 'as a matter of urgency' to make member unions sign binding amateur agreements for 1995, Rugby World Cup year.

'To go professional is in the short term the soft option; in the long term it may be a very wrong option,' he said. 'We have a World Cup to play next year. Are the participating players to find that some are paid while others are not? The competition would become a farce.'

Meanwhile, Beer announced that the South African disciplinary committee was finally due to meet on Tuesday to consider the case of Elandre van den Berg, whose footwork in last months' Eastern Province-England game necessitated the insertion of 25 stiches into the face of Jonathan Callard. The RFU has set up its own three-man panel to look into the events of that match, which included the dismissal of England's Tim Rodber and Eastern Province's Simon Tremain.