Premiership dig their heels in over England’s overseas players
PREMIERSHIP clubs are ready to strongly resist any attempt to allow England to pick players based abroad — despite growing indications that a planned salary cap rise may be abandoned. The RFU are coming under pressure to review their foreign policy in light of an exodus of players to France. England coach Steve Borthwick has publicly expressed the hope that he is allowed to pick the strongest possible team, as a sign that he will push the union to relax their hard-line stance. However, it is understood that the top-flight clubs are determined to dig their heels in, as part of wider talks about a new deal with the union. Negotiations are under way about the next ‘long-form agreement’ with the RFU which will govern the thorny issue of player release for England.
The clubs are hell-bent on securing the retention of the contentious foreign policy, despite sources indicating to Sportsmail that the cap is now unlikely to revert back to £6.4million a year — from the current, reduced £5m — as was intended.
Whereas richer and ambitious clubs such as Bristol and Exeter are thought to favour the return of the higher spending threshold, rivals have argued that prudence is required, especially since the demise of Worcester and Wasps. Asked in January about the prospect of a cap rise from 2024-25, Leicester chief executive Andrea Pinchen said: ‘If you looked at any other industry in the financial predicament rugby is in, would you be making those decisions? Would I be looking to revisit that? Absolutely. I would encourage the salary cap rise to be looked at again.’
So far, budget cuts here have led to England regulars Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Simmonds and Joe Marchant agreeing cross-Channel moves this summer. Northampton lock David Ribbans is off to Toulon.
Jack Willis signed for Toulouse after the collapse of Wasps but has been told that his special dispensation to play for England while based in the Top 14 league will only apply this season.