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Fans debate rule change that ended Northampton prop-gate

By Josh Raisey
(Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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European Rugby’s decision to allow Northampton Saints to sign loosehead prop Alex Seville ahead of Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final with Exeter Chiefs has been generally celebrated despite Rob Baxter’s accusation of mind games. 


Saints head coach Chris Boyd has been vocal about the pressure his side have been under this past week, as they were approaching the biggest match of their season with only one fit loosehead, 19-year-old Emmanuel Iyogun, after their front row was decimated by injuries with Francois van Wyk, Alex Waller, Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi and Nick Auterac all missing. 

Although the Champions Cup rules stated that a team could not register players after the September 1 deadline, an exception was made in this case, allowing Northampton to sign Gloucester’s Alex Seville on a short-term deal. 

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The response to this measure has largely been one of ‘common sense prevails’, particularly given the unique circumstances that teams in the Gallagher Premiership find themselves in with the backlog of 2019/20 fixtures.  

The monumental workload that players in England currently have since the season restarted last month was inevitably going to create injury crises of the likes Northampton find themselves in – and that is why many feel the EPCR did the right thing. 

The alternative options were not desirable, mainly the prospect of uncontested scrums should Iyogun go off. When bearing that in mind, some have criticised the EPCR for waiting so long to provide a verdict as Seville, and the Northampton squad as a whole, have limited time to train. 


But there are plenty of appreciative Saints fans, thanking Gloucester for parting ways with Seville, and Exeter for agreeing to the rule change. 

However, this saga has perhaps added a slight edge to the match at Sandy Park on Sunday, as Exeter boss Baxter has since queried how Northampton handled the situation. Nevertheless, it’s a relief for many that a resolution has been reached and fans can now concentrate on the game without the distraction of prop-gate.




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