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12 www.RUGBY 22 May 2009 22 May 2009 www.RUGBY 13
IKE King Canute, the Rugby
“The publicity came at a bad time for
Football Union has spent the NEALE HARVEY
Ben Cohen has enjoyed his brief stay in France him because he lost his place in the
last few months furiously
England team, but we’ve all got
attempting to stem the tide of
assesses the threat from France, decisions to make and you stick by
England-qualified players heading
where the burgeoning
them. If it doesn’t work out he can come
wary of Top 14
to France.
Top 14
back in two years, it’s not the end of the
world. He’s got his whole career ahead growth
Where once it was just the odd
continues to go
of him and he’s very excited about the
player, like Perry Freshwater of
from strength
opportunity of playing in France. And
MARK McCAFFERTY, chief executive of EYE FOR FRANCE
Perpignan or Bayonne’s Andrew
to strength
why not?
Premier Rugby, admits to being slightly
Springgay, who chose to ply his trade
“I must say, sometimes we get very
across the Channel, suddenly that trickle amidst a major
alarmed by the seemingly unstoppable
xenophobic over here. James, Riki and rise of French rugby, but he refuses to
is in danger of becoming a flood. recruitment
Tom Palmer will have a fantastic time panic in the face of what appears to be a
Confirmation of Jonny Wilkinson’s
drive of English
playing in France and good luck to growing threat to both the Guinness
the London Irish
centre and the
move to Toulon earlier this week
Premiership them. Fundamentally, we want the best Premiership and Magners League.
PRA’s Players’ Player of
brought the number of Englishmen
players players playing in the Guinness The traditional flow of top foreign
the Year (right), admits
moving to France this summer to 12. The
Premiership and we’re working hard players into England appears to have
he could be tempted by
strength of the euro against the pound,
England wing, who has just returned with the clubs and the RFU to
been reversed, with many now choosing a move to France when
unfavourable tax laws relating to high
from an enjoyable two-year stint at incentivise players to stay, but we don’t
to follow the euro rather than the pound.
his contract expires in
earners and a glut of wealthy club
Brive. It might not be what some people want players to be discriminated
And with leading English players also
owners in France have suddenly
want to hear, but Cohen offers a simple against.”
now crossing the Channel in ever-
Around 25 current
conspired to make France’s Top 14 a
and pragmatic view of where rugby is Meanwhile, despite the number of
increasing numbers, the domestic product
British and Irish-based
very attractive proposition indeed.
heading. top players moving to France and the
could be diluted.
players, including
From next season, between 25 and 30
He told Rugby Times: “When you’re growing strength of the club game there,
However, McCafferty remains
Mapusua’s good friend
English players will be playing their
getting paid to do a job, to a certain Cohen does not view the Top 14 as an
confident over the future of the
and former teammate,
rugby in France’s top-flight. Add to
extent loyalty goes out of the window, immediate threat to the Guinness
Premiership. Asked about the threat from
Riki Flutey, are heading to
them a number of top class Kiwis,
especially in sport because it’s so cut- Premiership.
France’s Top 14, McCafferty told Rugby
the Top 14 this summer,
Italians, South Africans and
throat. If you’re not performing or don’t Asked whether the Top 14 might
Times. “We’re mildly concerned. We’re
and from next season
Argentineans, plus the usual array of
get on with the coach you could be out become the rugby equivalent of
not complacent but, equally, we’re not
Georgians and Romanians, and it is very
anyway, so it’s a short career and if football’s Premier League, Cohen
going overboard about it.
around 50 players from
these shores will be
easy to see how the Top 14 is fast
you’ve got the opportunity to go to responded with a firm: “No! I think the
“We’ve been a beneficiary of top
operating in France.
becoming the league of choice for
France and double or treble your Premiership is still a long way ahead
French players playing here so I don’t
Lifestyle is one reason
leading professionals from around the
salary.... well, why not? and that showed in the Heineken Cup
think we can suddenly throw our hands
up in horror and say the free-market
for moving – who
“You’re not going to a rubbish this year when only one French side
In many ways, the number of
system is not fair. Clearly, it’s also
wouldn’t want to play for
league, you’re going to a league that I reached the quarter-finals.
foreign players gravitating towards
influenced by the strength of the euro
Toulon and live in a lovely
don’t think is as good as the Premiership However, he qualifies this with a
against the pound and there are some
penthouse suite on the
France mirrors what has been yet, but it’s not far off. You’re playing warning, adding: “When France get it
very attractive places in France to play.
Cote d’Azur? But, as is
happening in English football over the against world-class players week-in, right off the pitch, they’re going to be
“We’re keeping an eye on it and
increasingly the case in
last 15 years. As the big money has week-out and I don’t think you can fantastic and then I would say ‘yes,
behind the scenes we’re working with the
modern sport, money will
found its way into the Premier League blame any player for moving. It’s a that’s going to be the best league in the
French League. They’re going to be
often be the driving force.
from television and rich foreign owners, fantastic competition and England are
words, they must comply with training a degree of success, the French are England players, so to get this knee-jerk But we at the PRA are great proponents world’. But French rugby is still well
introducing their salary cap the season
And while he has no
so, inevitably, the best players have going to have to look at picking some
days, medical protocols and ensure they notoriously reluctant to take orders, reaction without consultation was of life skills and life after rugby, so to behind the Premiership.
after next and, providing they can get
desire to up sticks and
followed, drawn by the financial players who go over there. It would be are available for all summer tours and especially from ‘Les Rosbifs’. disappointing. have the opportunity to learn a new “I’ve been part of it at Brive and you
support in Brussels, they’re also putting in
leave London Irish in the
attraction of being made for life. silly not to.” Test matches. Andrew remains bullish, however, “I think it’s inevitable that some language, to live another lifestyle and can’t fault the fitness, determination and
a quota system to have a minimum
lurch, Mapusua would not
The ‘best league in the world’, as The RFU’s response to this French Rob Andrew, the RFU’s elite rugby and at a recent RFU briefing, he guys will go abroad. Ultimately, Martin play a different style of rugby is fantastic. ambition, but in the southern
number of French-trained players in their be human if he did not
time, though, it’s not all about the
football’s Premier League is now uprising has been to issue a threat to its director, has recently embarked on a declared: “Effectively, we are saying to Johnson can pick who he wants, but “Some people still think it’s the hemisphere and Britain they put a lot of
teams. explore all the available opportunities.
routinely described, has a global players that they may not be picked for number of diplomatic missions to the players that if they can’t fulfil those we’ve got to be cognisant of market- wrong decision for him but James is a responsibility on the players, whereas in
“They are worried about the number “Everyone’s going to France at the
“As long as you’re happy where
audience of billions and its domination England unless their contractual France, where he is trying to get the Top obligations, they will not be considered forces. These players have families to very bright guy, he’s well advised and France they don’t. But once the players of foreign players playing in France and a moment and I guess it would be rude
you are and you’re still getting good
of the international scene looks assured. arrangements in France meet the 14 clubs in tune with England’s for the England squad. EPS players have feed, mortgages to pay and, heaven he’s taken that decision. It’s a great start opening up to new ideas, they’ll be better long-term process for us to not to have a look, but for the moment
money, I don’t see any reason why
So, is France’s Top 14 heading the demands of the EPS agreement. In other requirements. But whilst he may achieve to take responsibility for their own forbid, if they get injured one week, privilege to go and play in Paris. unbelievable.” undertake is to help them with their I’m just concentrating on London Irish
you’d need to move away unless you
same way? Will money and market- careers and how much they value they’ll probably get forgotten about the structure and to get them to somewhere and trying to do my bit,” Mapusua
get a ridiculous offer.
forces soon dictate that all the best
James Haskell could be a
playing for England. next.
Jamie Noon - one of
near to where we are, where two-thirds of
told Rugby Times.
“I’ve still got another couple of
players, with very few exceptions, will victim of the RFU’s hard “We also have to ensure availability “I think a lot of players have taken
several Falcons to fly the players are domestically qualified.”
“It’s hard for a professional not to
years at Irish. It’s a great club and I’m
be playing in France?
ball stance over selection
for the tour to Australia next year, the lifestyle decisions as well, though clearly
the next this summer
One positive by-product for English
look at those offers and I definitely will
happy to stay at the moment, but I’m
With due respect to the likes of Kris final senior tour before the 2011 World finance has something to do with it.
rugby is that as a result of so many
when the time comes. At the same
not too sure what happens after that.”
Chesney and Joe El Abd, who are joining Cup. Once Martin (Johnson) and I have When you look at the opportunities Riki
players moving to France, it will force the
Toulon from Saracens and Bristol sat down after this summer’s England Flutey and Jamie Noon have been given
Premiership clubs to maintain, and
respectively, their absence is unlikely to tour and towards the end of the Lions to take young families overseas and play
hopefully upgrade, their academy and A-
THE PLAYER DRAIN - English players moving to France’s Top 14 this summer...
cause the RFU much angst. But losing tour, we will reflect on form and in the Top 14, good luck to them.”
team structures to ensure a greater
players like James Haskell, Riki Flutey, availability throughout 2009/10, up to Hopley recognises the need for the
throughput of young talent into the
Tom Palmer and Jamie Noon is a the second Test with the Wallabies on England management to have a degree
different matter entirely. They are June 20, 2010. That will affect the elite of control over their best players, but he
And although he admits English
current members of England’s Elite player squad, which will be named in is less enamoured about the way in
players will continue looking abroad for
Balshaw –
Gloucester to Biarritz; Kris
Player Squad and are probably in the July.” which a player such as Haskell, who is
the foreseeable future, McCafferty does
Chesney – Saracens to Toulon;
vanguard of an exodus of players as The RFU’s response, a tad bullying undoubtedly the future of English
not believe it will lead to a flood of cheap Joe El Abd – Bristol to Toulon;
foreign imports coming the other way.
Ayoola Erinle – Leicester to Biarritz;
contracts expire over the next couple of
in its tone, has irked the Professional rugby, has taken heavy criticism for
He explained: “There will be
Riki Flutey – Wasps to Brive;
Rugby Players’ Association which, as making a career choice.
James Haskell – Wasps to Stade
temptations for players to move, for sure,
All of which has left the RFU in a
you would expect from a modern trades Haskell has been lambasted in some
Francais; Tom May – Newcastle to
I just don’t think we need to overreact to Toulon; Jamie Noon – Newcastle to
stew, because just a year after it signed a
union, is keen that its members should quarters over his summer move to Stade
it. In another sense, it gives the chance for
Brive; Tom Palmer – Wasps to
£110million, eight-year agreement with
be able to exercise their right to work Francais, but unlike English footballers
younger players to come through and, as
Stade Francais; Shaun Perry –
the Premiership clubs to facilitate
wherever and for whomever they who are notoriously reluctant to try their
Bristol to Brive; Ollie Phillips -
various players have found, if you’re not
Newcastle to Stade Francais; Jonny
international player release, there is a
choose. luck abroad, Hopley believes the 24-
playing at home you could be putting Wilkinson – Newcastle to Toulon
very real possibility that within two or
“I was disappointed with the RFU’s year-old back rower will be better for the
your England place in danger.
three years a fair percentage of
stance because I feel they should have experience.
“Players are individuals and they’ve
England’s top players might be playing
consulted us,” Damian Hopley, chief “I think James Haskell has been
got to weigh things up and make choices,
abroad. Where Haskell and Flutey have
executive of the PRA, told Rugby Times. hounded over this,” Hopley said. “Of all
but the clubs are very excited about the
Nick Adams - Montpellier; Phil
Christophers - Castres; Ben Cohen
gone, many others are sure to follow.
“We worked very closely on the EPS the players moving to France he’s been
crop of players we’ve got coming through
– Brive*; Perry Freshwater -
Sounds far-fetched? Ask Ben Cohen,
agreement and putting together what given the roughest time because of his
and we’ve seen some of them bursting on Perpignan; Andy Goode - Brive;
the former Northampton Saints and
we feel is the right package for the age and the stage of his development.
to the Premiership scene this season.”
Johnny Howard – Bayonne; Simon
Hughes – Brive; Ben Johnston -
Brive; Magnus Lund – Biarritz; Ollie
Smith - Montpellier; Andrew
“When France get it right off the pitch, they’re going to be fantastic and then I would say ‘yes, that’s going to be the best league in the world’.
Springgay – Biarritz; Steve
Thompson – Brive
But French rugby is still well behind the Premiership.” - England and Brive wing BEN COHEN compares the fare on offer on both sides of the Channel
* Ben Cohen to join Sale
this summer
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