x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

French riches proving to be little benefit to national team

Top 14 falling prey to similar disease that plagues English football

Coaches and administrators in France have bemoaned the influx of foreign talent, such as Wales' Leigh Halfpenny. Niall Carson / PA
Coaches and administrators in France have bemoaned the influx of foreign talent, such as Wales' Leigh Halfpenny. Niall Carson / PA

French rugby should be careful what it wishes for. The Top 14 was clearly swimming in lucre even before the recent announcement of a new TV deal worth €355 million (Dh1.7bn) during the next five years. But that does not always guarantee happiness.

In fact, some evidence suggests that having the most lucrative domestic league actually does the exact opposite. Look at the English Premier League in football, which is awash with foreign players, all of whom earn a pretty penny while holding down a place that might otherwise be well served by an Englishman.

It is good at making money, yet poor at producing players.

The same could conceivably happen in French rugby. In last year’s Six Nations, France took the wooden spoon for the first time since 1999, despite having a domestic league with the greatest financial clout in Europe and a surfeit of superstars.

Philippe St Andre, France’s coach, bemoaned the problem ahead of this year’s championship. “This is the biggest problem. We have no one who is first-choice kicker for their club,” the coach said this week.

And yet the problem will only be exacerbated by the riches pouring in to the domestic game.

Leigh Halfpenny, for instance, is set to arrive on a huge deal from Wales, thus pushing an aspiring French full-back farther down the pecking order at Toulon.

And while France were the worst side in Europe’s elite last year, Toulon were the continental club champions. So who is in the right?

pradley@thenational.ae