Too much of a Good Thing?

Is it just us, or is there just a little too much rugby at the moment? You couldn’t fault the World Cup or the action, but to get into the European Cup two weeks later feels just a little bit more of a burden than it should do.
And then, having forgotten about it because of the aforementioned competition, to be reminded that the club season this year still has nearly eight months to run also felt a bit………
The European Cup, once such a highlight for the northern club calendar, seems especially wedged in. It’s hard to justify the tournament being one of ultimate prestige for Europe when a sprinkling of the star players are still on holiday.
The Six Nations is likely to be dogged by fatigue and injury, especially from England and Wales respectively, while the hole into which Saracens have dug themselves is all the more deep for it being a post-World Cup year. It’s poor form to breach the salary cap, but if ever there was a season in which one could empathise, this coming one would be it.
European players who went to the World Cup will have, by the time the season ends in July, been at it for 12 months – a few will have had a four-week break, but not many. That’s an impossible workload for anybody.
The Premiership may be the only top-level tournament in the history of sport to have the star players playing in fewer than half of the fixtures by the time of its drawn-out end. The European Cup looks set, this season once again, to be a fiefdom of Irish and one or two expensively assembled French teams.
Few fans may be too happy about the CVC salami-style takeover of the game but, if they are to snap up all the tournaments one-by-one, there could be a tremendous service rendered: bring pressure to bear on the factions who run tournaments and get them to sort out a sensible calendar with a sensible workload for players and fans. Right now, even for the hardiest fan, it all seems a little too much.
All change in England
If ever you needed to know how rugby has changed in England over the past 20 years, just look at the Premiership table. The bottom quintet of Leicester, Bath, Quins, Wasps and Saracens were five of the top six of the 1999 Allied Dunbar Premiership – the first four of those have been ever-presents at the pinnacle of English rugby for decades.
This year it looks a real risk for Leicester especially, as Saracens’ draconian points penalty is not an insurmountable gap.
A real risk for a team that, 20 years ago, was on its way to its second championship in a row. But should the Tigers’ woes continue, expect the arguments for ring-fencing to pop up sooner, rather than later.

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