A few weeks ago I asked why, if football is the evil spirit, rugby is aping it. I made a specific example of England’s cheque book in hand pursuit of Eddie Jones as the new England rugby coach.
Now Rugby Players Association boss Damian Hopley has claimed the topping-up of rugby’s Premiership stars is rife, and he even describes the current six-month rule relating to approaches as nonsense.”
Officially at least, Aviva Premiership clubs are unable to approach players from rival clubs until January 1, but the speculation surrounding transfer moves for Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi suggests the rule is routinely ignored. No doubt football is being blamed for that….
Now another row is brewing over the issue of whether foreign stars will make the England rugby team better or not. And of course the parallels with football are unmistakeable. The Three Lions flop at the World Cup, and the clubs are blamed for putting their own interests before the national team. But within weeks fans are flocking in through the gates to watch the latest Premier League soap opera. The English rugby team sets a record for their exit from their own World Cup but the fans still flock to watch their club sides. And with two European rounds gone and only one English defeat, who needs the world cup anyway? The widespread popularity of both sports is sustained by the success of club competitions.
The Aviva Premiership is due to increase its salary cap from next season, and it won’t take a genius to work out that much of this increased money will go into players’ pockets, and more than likely foreign players. A perfect example is Wasps’ Nathan Hughes, born in Lautoka , Fiji, who learned his rugby in Auckland before coming to England. He chose not to represent his home country at the World Cup and is now qualified to play for England.
Hughes isn’t the first player to do this and he certainly won’t be the last and there is a distinct possibility that increases in the wage cap will encourage many more young players to make the journey to England.
And if they do young English players will not be playing for Premiership clubs. And ultimately Eddie Jones and his successors will have less quality Englishmen to choose from. Sounds familiar? It must be football’s fault….