The way in which players are registered to be eligible for European competition has drawn criticism from competing clubs this season, with multiple coaches now saying that the regulations are harmful to player welfare.
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards was the first to speak out, after a rush of injuries at tighthead prop in the 24 hours running up to the club’s trip to Edinburgh in round three of the Heineken Champions Cup meant that he was forced to select Sam Lockwood, a loosehead prop, in the three jersey.
The club had sought permission from European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) to register an extra tighthead prop given the extenuating circumstances, but it was denied, prompting the former Leicester Tiger to say the following.
“You lose three tighthead props in 24 hours, you ask for dispensation to bring in another one and you’re not allowed that so you have to play a loosehead on the tight.
“It’s not like playing a left wing on the right wing or an inside centre at outside centre. There is a safety issue there and they weren’t prepared to address it, so I was particularly disappointed with it.”
Now Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has added his voice to mix, labelling the system “archaic” following his side’s own issues with the regulations.
The Welsh region, who have already made three changes to the original 41-man squad named for the competition, have been stonewalled in their attempt to add back rower Tom Phillips to the group for their final two Champions Cup matches.
With the Scarlets missing a number of players in the back row due to injury, such as James Davies, Blade Thomson and Aaron Shingler, it has created a selection dilemma for Pivac, who has been as frustrated as Richards by the policy.
Speaking to BBC Sport Wales, the soon-to-be Wales head coach had the following to say.
“Unfortunately, Tom can’t play in Europe because we have used all our injury cards.
“I understand why they do it but this is a guy that is ranked in our loose forwards and has been in the club all his life.
“He can’t play despite us having injuries so we have to play players out of position and put them at risk.”
Under current regulations, clubs are only allowed to make three changes to their initial 41-man squad during the pool stage and it is understood that EPCR have been reluctant to make exceptions for sides this season, due to the precedent it could create.
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