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Lawes insists that RFU needs to increase their efforts and offer competitive salaries to retain top players within England.


One could argue that this season of English rugby has been defined by the World Cup at the beginning, but the more significant discussions regarding the sport’s future in the country will happen behind the scenes. The Professional Game Agreement, an eight-year contract between the Rugby Football Union and Premier Rugby, is set to expire this summer and negotiations are currently underway.

Rumors suggest that hybrid contracts may be implemented for select English national team members, in order to split their salaries between their club and country. This poses a significant dilemma, especially for rugby directors who must navigate a multitude of unknowns surrounding finances, recruitment, and the mental state of their players.

Owen Farrell, the captain of England, has made the decision to take a break from international games. Courtney Lawes, a former captain, has officially retired from the sport. The players are fatigued and are increasingly being enticed to other opportunities due to the financial struggles of English rugby.

According to Lawes, the RFU must intervene if they want their top players to remain in the country. The concept of central contracts may be a viable solution. It is important to compensate the best players based on their value, which is determined by what others are willing to pay for them. If other countries like France or Japan are offering a higher salary, players may be inclined to leave. The short lifespan of a player’s career means they must make the most of their earnings while they can. Given the economic differences between the Premiership and France, it’s understandable why players may choose to leave.

Due to the downfall of three Premier League teams in the previous season, the situation is now more delicate. This has led to an increase in the number of English players, including several national team members, playing overseas. Northampton’s player Lawes and his teammate Lewis Ludlam are being mentioned as potential transfers to Toulon. This adds a layer of complexity for their director of rugby, who is tasked with devising strategies for recruitment and adhering to salary cap regulations.

Northampton Saints' Lewis Ludlam (left) celebrates scoring his side's second try against Harlequins

Phil Dowson, the director of rugby for Northampton, expressed that dealing with the salary cap can be quite challenging as it constantly changes and is unpredictable. This makes it difficult to plan for the future, as the cap may be different in the next few years. Additionally, there is uncertainty surrounding the England rugby landscape. Overall, Dowson finds this to be the most complicated aspect of his job.

The main goal of a rugby director is to achieve clarity among all the variables. This will allow players to make informed decisions about staying with their team or pursuing higher earnings elsewhere. The issue of salary caps will also factor into these decisions, but Dowson cautions against hastily increasing them due to excessive spending in other countries.

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Dowson expressed concern about clubs going bankrupt due to an arms race. He acknowledged that London Irish had a strong team, making it even more tragic that the club is no longer in existence. Raising the salary cap to keep up with French clubs and putting pressure on other teams could lead to financial strain. It is imperative that we work towards preventing this from happening.

The individuals at the negotiating table are under increased pressure to find effective solutions and to do so in a timely manner.

Source: theguardian.com