Rugby Union: Wood regretful after 'off-the-record' speech: RFU secretary puts blame for race controversy on 'mischievous reports'

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DUDLEY WOOD, the secretary of the Rugby Football Union, has expressed his regret over offence caused by reports that he had criticised other sports and the role of black participants in sport.

Wood, who had initially denied making the controversial statements attributed to him at an informal meeting of sports editors, has backed leading England rugby union players, including the captain Will Carling, who have disassociated themselves from his reported comments. Wood said yesterday: 'The views attributed to me in a speech I gave at an informal lunch were not my views and they were a totally inaccurate representation of what I said.

'I greatly regret any offence caused by these mischievous reports and I wish to associate myself wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed by the England rugby players.'

Carling and six other English Lions said in a statement issued on Saturday: 'We do not believe that Wood's views represent the vast majority of people involved in our game. The administration of other sports is something best dealt with by experts in those fields.

'We would not wish participants in those sports to believe that players in rugby are critical of them. More importantly, we wish to state that we do not consider any of the sports mentioned by Mr Wood to be inferior to our own. Indeed, we are proud of all English sports achievements.'

Apart from Carling, other British Lions who signed the statement were Brian Moore, Rob Andrew, Peter Winterbottom, Dewi Morris and Rory and Tony Underwood.

Wood's position is that the meeting with sports editors was off the record and that his comments about the development of athletics were not his personal views.

South Africa warmed up for next week's second Test against Australia by beating the provincial champions Queensland 17-3 at Ballymore. Uli Schmidt and Jacques Olivier both scored tries for the tourists.