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'It's been the darkest week in English club rugby history'

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England hooker Jamie George has insisted that senior players must be consulted as rugby chiefs look to restructure the game in the wake of the financial crisis gripping the Gallagher Premiership. Wasps followed Worcester into administration on Monday when all 167 players and staff at the club were made redundant and they are expected to join the Warriors in being relegated to the Championship.


Other teams are thought to be in similarly precarious positions and officials from the RFU and Premiership Rugby will face a parliamentary committee next month to answer questions about the league’s troubled finances. The RFU favours a reduction of the top flight and will even assess the feasibility of central contracts among a range of proposals being examined amid the consensus that an overhaul is vital.

Whatever is decided, George believes it is essential that experienced players are also involved in reshaping the game in England. “What has happened has opened the eyes of a lot of players. It’s made people realise that rugby isn’t in the place we thought it was,” said the Saracens and Lions front row, speaking on behalf of Sage.

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“We thought we were comfortable and that Wasps would never go down, Worcester would never go down. Now Joe Launchbury doesn’t have a job and Dan Robson doesn’t have a job. And 167 people at Wasps don’t have jobs.

“It’s been the darkest week in English club rugby history. That is a concern. What I want is to look at the global picture and say, ‘How can we fix this?’ Maybe it took something like this to create some form of change. It’s horrific that it had to be this way, but if we can channel this into English rugby becoming a lot more secure then that’s probably the only thing we can hope for.


“The players need to be at the forefront of it. I spoke to (England and Harlequins scrum-half) Danny Care and he is hugely passionate about this. He is a perfect example. He has been around the game for a long time and he has got some great ideas. Why would you not utilise that? Players are going to want certain things and how it works logistically and financially might be two separate things. But why would you not have them in the room? That is absolutely vital. I’d love to be in the room.


“I understand the value in potentially compressing the league: less games, make the games bigger, allow for the internationals to play more for their clubs. These types of conversations need to happen. Whether they can work logistically is for the RFU or PRL to decide, but players need to be at the forefront of these conversations.”

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney claimed that central contracts were the nuclear option but they will now come under serious consideration as talks continue over the new professional game agreement that begins in 2024. George has reservations over the idea, insisting there is no appetite among players for club rugby in England to be marginalised.

“I see the positives and negatives. Fundamentally my priority is playing for Saracens. They are the club that I love. If I then get picked for England off the back of it, that’s fantastic,” he said. “I wouldn’t want a central contract to take away from the importance of the club game. If it can enhance it in some way then absolutely, that’s a conversation to be had, but it shouldn’t be about just taking the England players out of the club game.

“I speak on behalf of a lot of players in that we want to play for our clubs. That’s why players need a voice in this conversation. It would be very easy to look at this commercially and say, ‘well let’s just make England as big as we can and take away from the club game’. For me, that isn’t the answer and it’s not what players want.”

  • Sage is the official insights partner of Six Nations Rugby and will be powering the smart ball this Autumn Nations Series. #SageInsights


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