x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Structure of English rugby season needs addressing

More English rugby clubs are preferring to hire foreign players, so that they are not depleted with homegrown players away on international duty at the time.

Clubs in the English domestic league will be starting to question, with some justification, the merits of producing homegrown players.

Take Leicester Tigers, for example. They have lost six of their most influential players to the England Rugby World Cup squad and, as a result, last year's runners-up find themselves with just one win from five matches. The leaves have not even fallen off the trees in England and already they can kiss goodbye to their hopes of winning the league title.

When your team are ravaged to that extent and you are penalised for possessing English players, it is easy to understand why Saracens have recruited several South African players who they will not lose to international matches.

They are currently in second place in the Aviva Premiership. Their strategy does nothing to help develop England players, but their coach, Mark McCall, is not paid to worry about the interests of England.

Leicester even allowed Lewis Moody, the England captain, to join Bath, their arch-rivals, last season because he was going to spend so much time on international duty. I mean, in how many other sports would teams be willing to part with the national team captain?

And can you imagine the reaction of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, if his team were forced to play Premier League matches while the World Cup was on? Exactly.