Rugby Union: South Africa still have grip on World Cup: Tournament remains as planned while International Board says alternative arrangements can be delayed until next year

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The Independent Online
However much violence may be raging in South Africa now, its effect on the World Cup 13 months hence was yesterday discounted by the International Rugby Board as it confirmed its decision to press on with the tournament as planned.

Indeed, as the killings mount so the urgency to have an alternative in place seems to diminish. Eddie Tonks, the IRB chairman, concluded the board council's annual meeting in London by insisting that alternative arrangements would not necessarily have to be taken up until next year.

Tonks said that the contingency plan on which Rugby World Cup, the competition organiser, has been working was still not ready to be announced. If the World Cup had to be taken from South Africa, the British Isles later in the year would almost certainly be the alternative and as Twickenham's new West Stand would not be ready for a prospective November final the likely venue would be the rebuilt 68,000- capacity Murrayfield.

The official line on England's imminent tour to South Africa has changed. It begins in May, a fortnight after the first non-racial general election. Sir Ewart Bell, the RWC chairman, previously said that the tour's safe completion would have a major bearing on the World Cup.

But yesterday Tonks and Louis Luyt - who as well as being the tournament's South African organiser, president of the Transvaal Rugby Union and chairman of Ellis Park, is the new president of the South African Rugby Football Union and a new IRB delegate - said that the England tour had nothing to do with it.

Yesterday's IRB statement said: 'The council (has) received further assurances from the SARFU that SARFU regards the safety of people to be of utmost importance, and that SARFU will have no hesitation in relinquishing the rights to hold the Rugby World Cup 1995 if the situation dictates.

'Arrangements are being made to further develop contingency plans in the event that the tournament has to be relocated. The Rugby World Cup will be played in 1995, and at this time, with the first match some 13 months distant, the Rugby World Cup will be held in South Africa in 1995 as planned.'

So that's all right, then. But, as Tonks's explanatory comments then revealed, there is a contradiction in IRB policy. 'We are concerned, like everyone else, but the tournament is 13 months away and as far as we are concerned there is time for it to settle down,' he said. 'With all the violence, the Australian cricketers are still there. We shouldn't get carried away.

'Frankly the cut-off date could be anywhere. It could be into next year. It may well be if something happens in March or April '95, it will be in the northern hemisphere. We are waiting for the event in South Africa to be disrupted and when that happens we will make our decision.'

The administrators have now concluded that they can afford to wait in the hope that any paroxysm that may follow the election will eventually subside. It is a mess that would have been avoided by the obvious expedient of awarding the 1999, rather than '95, World Cup to South Africa.

'I will be the first to tell Rugby World Cup to tell the International Board if I find that things deteriorate to such an extent that we could not operate,' Luyt said. He added that it had been 'a terrible week' with the killings in Johannesburg. 'I am not confident about anything.'

The IRB half-passed the controversial ruck / maul experiment into law yesterday. The side creating an indeterminate maul will continue to concede the put-in at a consequent scrum, but the law as it relates to the ruck reverts with the put-in going to the team going forward.

The IRB has reduced from three years to one the period of residency which qualifies migrant players to represent the country of their domicile. It has asked its member unions to appoint only its leading referee to international matches; has approved the extension of the pounds 22-a-day allowance to domestic international matches as well as tours; and has agreed to allow coaches on the field at half-time in all matches.

The battle for televised rugby is nearing a conclusion with the BBC and Sky expected to hold off ITV's challenge for the domestic contract. Internationals are likely to stay with the BBC, at an estimated pounds 30m for a three-year contract, while Sky is believed to be contributing around pounds 7m to screen 30 Courage league and Pilkington Cup matches a season. Meanwhile, England's Senior Clubs' Association seems determined to take a large share of the Sky cash. 'Gates are affected when there are live transmissions and we would want to see money diverted to us,' a spokesman said.