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French player recruitment policy changes?

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The new measures French clubs want to use to beat Premiership sides to big-name players

A marquee player system similar to the one operating in the English Premiership is being considered across the Channel in France.

Marquee players and changes to the salary cap are set to be top of the agenda at a three-day meeting of Top 14 and ProD2 club presidents in Bordeaux next week, L’Equipe reports.

Under the plan, which is said to have the support of Toulon’s Mourad Boudjellal, Bordeaux’s Laurent Marti, and Lyon’s Yann Roubert, the salary cap would be lowered by between €300,000 and €500,000 from its current €11.3million to accommodate a single high-value player on a multi-season deal. That player’s salary would not be included in the cap limit.

If approved in Bordeaux next week, the plan will go forward to the next meeting of the Steering Committee of the Ligue National de Rugby (LNR) in January. It could come into force as early as the 2019/20 season, which kicks off on the weekend of August 24, 2019.

The marquee player system could easily prove attractive to most presidents at French top-flight clubs, who are facing increasing competition for the signatures of big-name overseas players from Japan and England.

Clubs in France are again dipping heavily into the New Zealand player pool for their post-World Cup recruitment. Racing hope to attract captain Kieran Read; Toulon are chasing Sam Whitelock; while Pau’s efforts to tempt Ardie Savea to southwest France have hit reportedly a snag.

Savea had provisionally agreed to join the ambitious Top 14 club before the All Blacks’ November tour. But regional newspaper Sud Ouest reports the player has now been offered improved terms in New Zealand. The French club could bring out the big guns in the form of an increased salary offer. But, to do that, it would need to offload a player or two from its books.

Alternatively, Pau could keep Savea’s salary outside cap constraints by listing him as a ‘marquee player’.

In England, where the salary cap is £7million (about €7.8million), clubs can sign up to two ‘marquee players’ whose wages are not included in the cap accounting.

The salary cap was introduced for Top 14 and Pro D2 clubs in France in 2010, after a player arms race in the early 2000s had led to major financial difficulties for a number of clubs. This season, the average payroll in the Top 14 is reported to be €8.5million, well below the authorised ceiling.

An earlier plan that had the backing of Toulon’s Boudjellal, would have allowed players who came up through a club’s academy for an unspecified number of years to be excluded from the cap. But it was discarded in favour of the marquee player system, L’Equipe said.

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The new measures French clubs want to use to beat Premiership sides to big-name players