Rugby Union : Richardson broadside for Brittle

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If revolutionaries inevitably end up devouring their own, they lose nothing in the appetite department to dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists like John Richardson, the affable president of the Rugby Football Union.

Richardson yesterday reached the end of his tether with the antics of his own executive chairman, Cliff Brittle, effectively telling him either to shut up or step down.

It was the second time in less than a week that Richardson, frustrated by his colleague's on-going campaign to discredit the RFU's agreement with its senior clubs, felt the need to fire a public shot across the bows of the Good Ship Brittle. This one was more of a cannonball than a bullet, however.

"I am sad that Cliff, after all he has done, feels it proper to publicise his criticism of a decision democratically taken after lengthy debate," said the president, adding pointedly that the full RFU committee ratified the peace deal by 50 votes to four at their meeting last Thursday.

"The RFU committee asked Cliff to consider his position," Richardson added. "Members were prepared to agree to his request for further time for deliberation, trusting that he would stop publicly criticising and challenging decisions democratically reached by the governing body. It would appear from his recent actions that his position as chairman of the executive and officer of the union is becoming less and less tenable."

Richardson and his colleagues were last night awaiting a response from the chairman, who has threatened to call a Special General Meeting to challenge the accord with the clubs. Brittle could keep them waiting. "I will take my own time to make my response to recent events," he said.

Wasps completed the signing of the centre, Rob Henderson, from London Irish - a shrewd investment, given Damian Hopley's long-term injury problems and Va'aiga Tuigamala's return to rugby league. Henderson, capped twice by Ireland, has negotiated a release from his contract with the Exiles and moves across the capital in a four-year deal.

"London Irish was like a second home to me, but I was becoming stale," Henderson said yesterday. "This is an exciting opportunity and is sure to help me gain a regular place in the Ireland team."

The Wasps director of rugby, Nigel Melville, said: "Rob is exactly the type of strong, attacking player we need."