Rugby Union; Ryan first to yield to Andrew's advances

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

Rob Andrew finally got one of his men yesterday when he signed the captain of his old club to play for his new club. Dean Ryan, three times an England back-row forward, is to leave the First Division by joining Newcastle from Wasps as Andrew's assistant director of rugby.

Ryan's incentive is a three-year deal worth around pounds 150,000 plus other perks including housing, and he will start playing for the Second Division club as soon as possible. Under current regulations this would be February, but the Rugby Football Union is considering abandoning its 120-day qualification for transferred players, despite the opposition expressed yesterday by Tony Hallett, the RFU secretary.

"Movement of players during this period of change needs to be possibly more restrictive," Hallett said. "What worries me is the polarisation of players to one or two clubs and the effect it would have on the competitive edge of the game if all are amassed at one club or another."

Newcastle's slide into the relegation area has not been abated by Sir John Hall's cash injection, and his rugby development director has found it hard being "the Kevin Keegan of rugby" as well as England stand-off when players have been rejecting his advances.

Ryan's acceptance therefore represents a critical breakthrough, not least for its propaganda effect on other prospective recruits. The England wings Rory and Tony Underwood, who unlike Ryan have considerable North-eastern connections, are on Andrew's shopping-list and likely to make their decision this week after talking further to both Newcastle and Leicester.

"The Newcastle squad clearly needs strengthening, because it's not powerful enough for the First Division and everybody can see the current team is struggling in the Second," Andrew said yesterday. "Newcastle need class and experience now, and I hope Dean and I can be the first two to supply some of that quality."

The defection of their captain of three years is a body-blow to Wasps, coming on top of Andrew's but with Ryan, a 29-year-old former corporal in the Royal Engineers who has latterly been in banking, wanting to get involved in coaching as well as the new professionalism, the call of the North was irresistible.

"My contract is for three years and the terms are attractive enough for me to move home, family and job," Ryan said yesterday. "But that's not the sole reason. I want to be actively involved beyond my playing days, though I'll continue playing for as long as I can. I'm playing as well as when I was capped."

As far as the exasperated Wasps are concerned, Ryan's departure on top of that of Andrew will in effect force them to join Newcastle in the market- place. "We have no reason now not to go on the attack ourselves," Rob Smith, the club coach, said yesterday. "I just hope other clubs don't get upset when we come looking for their players but we've been left defenceless by the RFU regulations."

n Laurie Mains announced yesterday that he would retire as the New Zealand coach after the All Blacks' forthcoming tour of France, when he intends making public his opposition to French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

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