Rugby Union: Wales posters provoke an unholy row

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THE WELSH Rugby Union hierarchy were last night accused of blasphemy over their choice of advertising posters for next month's international against South Africa at Wembley.

The posters show the coach Graham Henry surrounded by the team under a banner headline saying "Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer", prompting leaders of the Baptist Union of Wales to call on members of its 530 churches to send letters of protest to the WRU.

The WRU insisted the posters were not intended to offend and did not contain biblical references. A statement from the WRU read: "It is disappointing to learn that our current poster campaign to promote the forthcoming visit of South Africa to Wembley has met with criticism from some quarters. It needs to be reaffirmed that the campaign has been designed to remind the Welsh public of the old, traditional hymn singing that went hand in hand with Arms Park international occasions - a combination that set Welsh rugby apart from all other nations.

"The words on the poster make up the first line of Cwm Rhondda, the most famous of all hymns associated with those great occasions. There are no biblical references whatsoever and no intention to offend," a WRU spokesman said. "The campaign aims solely to impress on the Welsh public the need to respect a togetherness of purpose and the need to reflect the atmosphere that made home games unique occasions."

Wasps' need to avoid offending their fans with a third successive defeat has led them to shuffle their midfield as they go in search of a much- needed victory over Bedford today. Following defeats by Newcastle and Richmond, the Irish centre Rob Henderson comes in for Nick Greenstock and the England scrum-half Andy Gomarsall replaces Mike Friday.

Wasps have been savagely self-critical after the defeats that wrecked a promising start to the season. Their rugby director, Nigel Melville, said his squad were "rubbish" at Newcastle and after Sunday's defeat by Richmond's 14 men, the England captain Lawrence Dallaglio called the side "inept".

With a trip to the Premiership favourites, Saracens, to come this weekend, Wasps know that a second successive home defeat would put them back among the strugglers.

Anthony Sullivan, the St Helens, Wales and Great Britain rugby league winger, is lined up to make his debut for Cardiff against London Irish next week. The Super League's top try-scorer in 1998 with 26 is joining the rebel Welsh club for three months following St Helens' defeat by Leeds in the play-offs.

"There are just some contractual details to be sorted out," Sullivan said. "As far as I'm aware, everything is going ahead and I'll be training with Cardiff next week."

The move will almost certainly end Sullivan's rugby league Test career, which has so far netted him six Great Britain caps. Although he has been in sparkling end-of-season form, with 12 tries in his last five games, the 29-year-old winger has apparently been ignored by the Great Britain coach, Andy Goodway, for the three-match Test series against New Zealand, starting on 31 October.

If Sullivan goes well for Cardiff, he could be pitched into 1999 World Cup action for Wales, which would rule him out of Britain's Tri-Series trip to Australia in 12 months' time.

Eric Hughes, the St Helens manager, said: "We have written to Cardiff giving them permission to sign Anthony now we are out of the play-offs."