Dallaglio tired of running in circles

Click to follow
The Independent Online

This may be tempting providence, but there were indications yesterday that common sense and self-restraint might be about to replace political skulduggery and knee-jerk loudmouthery as the common currency of English rugby. Twenty-four hours after the Premiership clubs and, crucially, 99.9 per-cent of professional players hit Twickenham with what amounted to a unilateral declaration of managerial independence, leading figures from all sides were calling for a calm, rational appraisal of the latest developments.

This may be tempting providence, but there were indications yesterday that common sense and self-restraint might be about to replace political skulduggery and knee-jerk loudmouthery as the common currency of English rugby. Twenty-four hours after the Premiership clubs and, crucially, 99.9 per-cent of professional players hit Twickenham with what amounted to a unilateral declaration of managerial independence, leading figures from all sides were calling for a calm, rational appraisal of the latest developments.

One of the calmest, most rational voices belonged to Lawrence Dallaglio, the England loose forward and full-time icon of the union fraternity. "It's not so much a question of the players taking sides, as of them looking at reality," said the Wasps captain, by way of explaining his decision to throw his considerable weight behind the new Premier Rugby Partnership initiative announced by the élite clubs on Wednesday. "I've had people talking to me about the worst-case scenario - that my international career might be at risk - but we're not talking about a few England players here. This is about the 380 people who play the game professionally in this country.

"We've been running around in circles for five years and, from where I'm looking, we don't seem to have moved too far down the line. It's not for me to criticise the Rugby Football Union: in many ways, they've done a fine job with the international team. But the clubs have behaved honourably towards their players, they've given people the opportunity to play professionally and to earn a substantial living, and they're prepared to continue doing all this for the foreseeable future, despite getting a bad deal. For the first time, one party has come to the players and said: 'This is what we want to do, and we want you to be a part of it.' For most players, there was no choice to make."

Contrary to some of the more frenzied outbursts from opponents of the ground-breaking 50-50 partnership between the clubs and the Professional Rugby Players' Association, there is no immediate threat to anyone's international future, let alone Dallaglio's.

RFU members linked to the ultra-conservative Reform Group claimed that, simply by signing with the new organisation, players had put themselves outside International Rugby Board regulations and were therefore ineligible for Test activity. But, according to the IRB itself, that is not the case.

"We recognise the potential ramifications of these developments," said Chris Rea, the IRB spokesman. "But at this stage, we consider it very much a matter for the RFU and the clubs involved. It would be wrong to speculate as to what may happen in the future, or to start shouting from the rooftops. As we speak, there has been no problem over player release. Should a problem arise, we will look at it. Until then..."

The Welsh Rugby Union have launched what they claim is a "global" search for three assistant coaches to work alongside Graham Henry. In a brazen attempt to ape England's state-of-the-art back-room organisation, which boasts specialists in a number of disciplines, the Welsh are willing to pay £70,000 a year to the right candidates. "We need people with a proven track record at senior provincial and international level," a WRU spokesman said.

The Wallabies are also busy on the coaching front. Rod Macqueen, their World Cup-winning master tactician, intends to step down after this summer's Tri-Nations tournament, and the Australian Rugby Union will appoint a successor by the middle of May, thereby allowing the two men to work together during the Lions tour in June. Eddie Jones of the ACT Brumbies is the early favourite.

Comments