Rugby Union: Welsh accused of illegal studs: Davies' counter-accusations

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DON RUTHERFORD, technical director of the Rugby Football Union, opened a can of worms yesterday when he accused Welsh players in last Saturday's match against England at Twickenham of wearing illegally long studs and excessive padding. Welsh verbal retaliation was predictable and immediate.

Rutherford also complained that Robert Norster, the Wales manager, had been in radio contact with Mark Davies, his physiotherapist on the touchline, implying that coaching instructions were being transmitted to the team on the field. Rutherford intends taking these matters up with the International Board.

The latter is in fact not covered in the regulations, though Rutherford was clear that it was against their spirit. His accusations led to a counter-accusation that Wales had been inordinately delayed in getting their replacement, Anthony Copsey, on instead of Emyr Lewis, whereas Mike Catt's replacement of Rob Andrew for England had been a formality.

'I have reason to believe that a certain player - and there may have been more - was wearing illegal studs, in spite of me telling the referee that he must inspect the players just as they're stepping on to the pitch,' Rutherford said. 'A certain prop wearing padding went beyond the legal requirements.'

This is taken to refer to Ricky Evans, and there have also been questions about the arm padding worn by Scott Quinnell. To which Alan Davies, the Wales coach, replied last night: 'I reject what Don Rutherford says. We like to make sure we are complying with the regulations and we obviously satisfied the referee.'

Davies, a picture of wounded innocence, claimed the reason for Norster's wiring-up was to avoid a repetition of the touchline drama involving Nigel Walker when he was severely concussed against Scotland and refused to leave the playing area.

'In order to clarify that situation, Bob had to run down from the stand and all the way round the pitch - which is obviously a most undesirable situation,' Davies said.

'One has to be careful not to have a slanging match but it seemed to me that the approval for Rob Andrew's replacement was done on a nod basis and the approval for Tony Copsey was done on a touch-talk basis. We should have standard practices that apply to everyone.'

Jack Rowell, the new England manager, will unveil his new coaching team today - though Rowell himself will in effect be the chief coach. Dick Best is likely to remain part of the team as forwards' coach with Les Cusworth, at present one of the England A coaches, promoted to be backs' coach, which would mean Mike Slemen's departure.

Ireland yesterday included 11 uncapped players in their squad of 30 led by Michael Bradley to tour Australia in May and June. The Lions wing Richard Wallace has been picked despite breaking a shin-bone last Saturday. The only unavailable member of the current Ireland team is the Lions prop Nick Popplewell.

Irish squad, Sporting Digest, page 35