COMMENTS made during the week by the two most powerful men in local rugby union, New Zealand Rugby Football Union chairman Eddie Tonks and All Black coach Laurie Mains, provided an insight into the division of opinion on professionalism in the sport. Obviously agitated by John Timu's defection to rugby league, Mains pleaded for the NZRFU to ignore the International Rugby Board's strict amateur rules. Shortly after receiving confirmation that Timu had signed for Canterbury-Bankstown, the All Black coach claimed: 'All countries bend the IRB's rules, but we don't bend them as much as others. The Australians, South Africans and French openly pay their players up front while England's Rugby Union are more subtle - they give their representatives sufficient match tickets to sell on the black market and make NZ$9,000 (approximately HK$43,500) each per Test. We must also pay our top players enough to keep them in the game. 'We operate within IRB regulations at our peril. It's no coincidence more of our players are going to league than those from other countries. It's simply because we're not bending the rules as much as other countries. In recent times we've lost Timu, Tuigamala, Innes, Schuster, Ridge, Gallagher and Botica. They're all world-class backs and the standard of our backline has definitely gone backwards due to them departing.' Tonks immediately disassociated himself from the remarks. 'That's quite an absurd statement,' he told reporters. 'I believe it was made without too much thought. Rugby union players will always be lured to league and, as an amateur game, we have no way of matching the offers of league clubs. Other countries have been more successful in retaining players simply because their players are more loyal than ours. We've always found replacements and will continue to find replacements if required. Frankly, the game of rugby union survives on its regulations, so he [Mains] is absolutely wrong in saying what he did.' Both Mains and Tonks made their utterances before the 1994 Division One Player of the Year, Waisake Sotutu, decided to reject North Sydney's three-year contract worth approximately HK$700,000 a year plus a home, job and car. The unemployed salesman had actually settled upon signing, only to change his mind when learning of John Timu's switch to rugby league. 'With John no longer available, I am now so close to an All Black jersey and don't want to throw it away,' said Sotutu. Mains, however, expressed doubt at Sotutu's sincerity. 'He knows that if he has a good World Cup, his signing-on fee will probably treble,' the All Black coach snorted. THE appointment of Stephen Hollings - who admitted stealing over HK$24,000 from a previous employer last year - as Athletics New Zealand's national coaching director has split the Kiwi track and field fraternity and prompted two prominent officials to resign. Hollings, a former British steeplechase champion with a solid coaching record, was discharged without conviction in September, 1993, after repaying the money he misappropriated while engaged by Auckland University. ROWAN Brassey continued the impressive form he displayed at the Hong Kong Pairs by winning the New Zealand Superbowls singles title. The Aucklander defeated Andrew Curtain of Canterbury in the final 0-7, 7-5, 0-7, 7-3, 7-3.