Wallabies captain says he is WRC 'agent'

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

Phil Kearns, the Wallabies captain, has admitted he is an agent for Kerry Packer's World Rugby Corporation (WRC). Meanwhile, Jason Little, the Wallaby centre, is expected to become the Australian 's champion in the battle against the WRC by agreeing to stay with the establishment.

Kearns admitted that he was acting on behalf of the WRC, but said he had not been paid for his services. "As a paid agent certainly not, but I have been informing players of another option and the ARU is aware of that," Kearns said.

Kearns said around 60 Australian players had signed WRC agreements and he understood their agreements were binding.

The Australian chairman of selectors, Paul McLean, said his panel would not ostracise players, including Kearns, for their involvement with the WRC.

In New Zealand, players and officials met yesterday but adjourned, saying that while the discussions had been useful, there was no immediate prospect of a resolution.

The All Black captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, said a few points had been clarified by the union on the planned Murdoch-backed deal, also involving South Africa and Australia. Fitzpatrick said he had not signed anything, maintaining that the main issue of discussion was not the money on offer.

Tiaan Strauss, the former Springbok, yesterday joined the criticism from South African provincial players over what they call their shoddy treatment in pay-for-play negotiations.

The 28 members of the World Cup squad have agreed to sign contracts with the South African Rugby Football Union, who have thrown in their lot with Rupert Murdoch. But many non-World Cup players have said they prefer the terms offered by the WRC. "If the rest of the world go with Packer, we [South Africa] will become isolated again," Strauss said.

Tony Hallett, England's new Rugby Football Union secretary, believes the threat of the professional circus enticing England stars may be subsiding - for now. Talks with the England players resume next week in a bid to hammer out a deal.

Hallett said: "It is possible that the deal is on the wane. But it has taught us all a good lesson and, sooner or later, there will be another raid for our players. Our good dialogue with the players will continue and we will come to some agreement at the end of the month whereby the players receive substantial rewards for promoting a sponsor."