HERE WAS controversy at the start of November because of the number of Tests played outside the international window and the resulting high-profile absences of players not released by their clubs. So it’s interesting that more than half of players think that no Tests should be played outside the official window.
Sam Warburton would like to see fewer Tests, but realises there needs to be a solution to the financial shortfall unions would incur by cutting matches. “I’d like to see a ruling that there’s no more than ten Internationals a season,” he said. “Players’ salaries are going up and up and up, but bodies can’t cope with the demands of sustaining those salaries.”
Test starters are viewed as the group at most risk of injury, 55% citing them, followed by fringe internationals (30%).
As for eligibility – a topical issue now players are able to switch allegiance via the Olympic sevens route – 45% believe players should be allowed to represent only one country at international level.
Yet 39% believe a player should be able to represent a different country if they have a passport for that country and have had a three-year stand-down period since they last played for the other country. The remaining 16% think it’s okay to switch providing the player is switching to a lower-tier country. Clearly players are divided over that issue.
THowever, the most significant – and shocking – finding in the survey is that 23% of players have felt pressured not to play for their countries by their clubs. Of those players, 39% admit to succumbing to that pressure and not representing their countries.
That means nearly one in ten (9%) players, predominantly from Tier Two nations, have been compelled to choose club over country. That number should be zero; no one should feel they have to turn down international honours because of pressure from their club.
“The international game drives rugby,” says Omar Hassanein. “Therefore it is imperative that players, no matter where