Exeter boss Rob Baxter hasn’t been alone this week in giving the cost-cutting RFU both barrels for its slack attitude towards the Championship, as Wasps also believe better recognition should be given to the second-tier of English rugby who provided them with reams of coaches and players who have taken the club all the way to Saturday’s Premiership final.
The 2019/20 Championship season was halted in March, with no start date yet set for the new campaign that clubs will go into having had their RFU funding drastically cut. “We haven’t got the Championship going, which is criminal really,” said Baxter on Wednesday.
“We’re not even helping them put anything in place to get their game up and running, and yet we have got other levels of sport playing in other areas.”
It’s a refrain shared by Wasps defence coach Ian Costello, who spent two formative years in charge at Nottingham learning the ropes in the English game after leaving Munster. His work there was crucial in Dai Young inviting him along to Wasps in 2018 and he can’t understand the way the powers that be tardily treat the Championship.
Wasps boss Lee Blackett coached at Rotherham, while assistants Neil Fowkes and Matt Everard also coached at a second-tier level before also moving up the ladder into the top flight.
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“That’s four people immediately in my environment (including himself) that have progressed and developed with the Championship as a big part of that,” said Costello to RugbyPass. “Then you look at players, you can literally go through our team.
“We probably have ten to twelve players in our environment, Tom Cruse, Will Rowlands, Josh Bassett and more that developed coming through the Championship, so I don’t understand why they [the RFU] would not continue to have a focus and an emphasis on the Championship as for me it looks like a no-brainer.
“In Ireland, we are well equipped to pick up late developers through club rugby but in England realistically once you come out of the underage pathways, it’s not that easy to come back in and if you do it’s through the Championship.
“I feel like you are losing out on two things: the development of players and coaches which is massive, but also a huge net of latecomers. In every sport across the world, there is always some that develop a bit later.
“As rugby is such a physical, attritional sport, the Championship is really ripe for late development and I just think if it was me and I was making decisions I can’t see the logic behind not supporting that as much as you possibly could.”
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