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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Walker on the warpath
Tom Walkinshaw and Henry Paul
Henry Paul is a high-profile code-crosser
Sir Rodney Walker is considering seeking Government intervention to prevent the loss of rugby league's star players to union.

Walker, chairman of the Rugby Football League, accused the Rugby Football Union of misleading him in the growing "poaching" row that is developing between the two codes.

On the day that Bradford Bulls star Henry Paul signed for Gloucester, Walker also accused the RFU of funding the clubs' raid on the 13-man code.

"The RFU are in receipt of considerable government funding and I believe that as chairman of the RFL it is my duty to place the matter before the Minister for Sport, Richard Caborn MP," Walker said.

The structure of union is much stronger and it will automatically attract the best players
  Tom Walkinshaw
"It is regrettable we have to consider such drastic action but we have to defend our position."

Tom Walkinshaw, chairman of Gloucester and Premiership Rugby, insisted that the RFU had no role in the Paul deal and that he was not aware of any scheme to subsidise transfers.

He believes that league players will automatically be lured to union as it becomes the "biggest show in town".

"The structure in union is much stronger throughout the country than league and I think it will get stronger and stronger.

"If that is the case it will automatically attract the best players and you don't need to do anything particularly artificial to make it happen."

However his comments did nothing to lessen Walker's wrath.

The RFU assured us that they had no intention of damaging our sport and events would suggest that we were being misled
  Sir Rodney Walker
"The RFU is a governing body now attacking the sport of another governing body and effectively damaging their ability to compete on the international stage," a statement from Walker read.

"While we are quite prepared to concede that rugby union clubs have the right to approach our players once their contracts have expired and vice versa.

"What is fundamentally different from other years is that the one governing body is now making funds available to acquire players from the other governing body.

"As late as April this year I had meeting with high-level officials of the Rugby Football Union who assured us that they had no intention of damaging our sport.

"Events during the last few days would suggest that we were being misled," Walker added.

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