English rugby continues its revolution!
An earthquake could strike English rugby. Several internationals, such as Henry Arundell, have decided to leave Premiership to play in the Top 14. Other major players could follow: Racing 92 are interested in Owen Farrell, while the Northampton Saints icon Courtney Lawes could get closer to CA Brive.
In a previous article, we illustrated the lack of funding and regulation in English professional rugby. Perhaps inspired by the French model, our overseas counterparts have announced their intention to introduce many changes.
These include a reduction in the number of clubs from thirteen to ten during the summer of 2023, a reduction in the number of players in the squad (1) and the introduction of new hybrid contracts for English players (2).
In addition, a debate on the rule governing the eligibility of international players is beginning to emerge (3), and plans for a new competition appear to be under consideration (4).
1) Reducing the squad to 35 professional players + 12 club-trained players
The Telegraph recently reported that the Premiership and Championship teams seem to have reached an agreement to reduce the number of professional players to thirty-five (35), with a further twelve (12) players coming through training, bringing the total number of players in each club to forty-five (45).
This restriction in the number of players follows the reduction in the number of clubs playing in Premiership, from 13 to 10, implemented last summer.
This measure would enable clubs to find the right balance between the number of games to be played during the season and ensuring that players have sufficient playing time to maximise their performance.
The introduction of a draft system based on the American model is even under consideration, according to the English media.
2) The introduction of hybrid contracts for English players
Also according to the Telegraph, an agreement has been reached between the Rugby Football Union and the Premiership to manage the contracts of twenty senior players in the England squad, with a view to optimising the national team’s performance in the run-up to the next World Cup, which will be held in Australia from 1 October to 13 November 2027.
These “hybrid” contracts already exist in Ireland and involve rugby clubs letting the federation have control over certain international players, in return for higher compensation. At present, the English Federation pays €50,000 per player supplied to the national team. These contracts could bring in larger sums for the clubs, making them more financially sustainable.
3) The eligibility of international players in question
The Giteau law, named after Australian international Matt Giteau, was created for the 2015 Rugby World Cup to allow Matt Giteau to be selected and play in the World Cup while playing in a foreign country (France). This law allows Australia to select players who play abroad, if they have at least 60 caps and have played for an Australian franchise for at least 7 seasons.
In England, however, the rules of the Rugby Football Union prohibit selecting players who play abroad.
With the departure of many international players to other countries, such as Joe Marchant, Jack Willis, David Ribbans and Henry Arundell, who joined the Top 14 this season, concerns are growing and some fear for the competitiveness of the Red Rose.
4) The introduction of a super-league between clubs playing in the Premiership and the URC
According to journalists from the Telegraph, after the Rugby World Cup, discussions began on the creation of a new competition bringing together clubs from the Premiership and the United Rugby Championship (URC).
The aim would be to reduce costs and make the game more attractive to investors.
The idea of creating a competition or modifying the current format by introducing a second division with a system of promotion and relegation has also been mooted.
English rugby is continuing its transformation and is set to undergo major reforms in the very near future.