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'It's tough': The toll the Premiership salary cap has taken on England players

Owen Farrell and team mates celebrate victory. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris - The RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England captain Courtney Lawes stands one match from the end of an epic season admitting that rugby faces conflicting demands that are increasing the burden on players.


Apart from a pre-season break and the time needed to recover from concussion and a thumb injury, Lawes has been playing ever since the Lions’ tour to South Africa over a year ago when he was a starter in all three Tests.

The expansion of a season that now runs from September to July has left a number of Eddie Jones’ squad operating on empty during their tour to Australia, among them Lawes’ fellow Lions Maro Itoje and Tom Curry who have been ruled out of Saturday’s series decider in Sydney because of concussion.

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At the heart of the issue is the difficulty marrying the increased number of games being played by Gallagher Premiership clubs with the lower salary cap that depletes playing resources.

“It has been a tough year, the longest season I can remember for a long while. I don’t know about the number of games,” Lawes said.

“The reduction of the salary cap doesn’t help because now we have got less players and we are going to have to play more. It’s tough.

“The Premiership doesn’t want fewer games because fewer games is less money, but at least let us have a squad size where we can rotate and adjust.


“If Saints pick up two injuries in the back row then I’m in, I’m not getting a rest so that is what it is. Things can be done better.”

Given the stage of the season and the need to be ready for a do or die clash with the Wallabies at Sydney Cricket Ground, England are having to strike a careful balance in their training workload this week.

Based next to Coogee Beach, Jones’ squad have taken a measured approach to training in a departure from previous tours when the Australian head coach might have been more demanding in his expectations on the practice field.

“We’ve got to be careful about what we’re doing and have to make sure we get the week right,” Lawes said.


“The leaders and the management got together and spoke about the importance of getting this week right because we can’t taper off as such and not be ready for the weekend, but we’ve got to make sure we’ve got something in the tank for sure.

“It’s understanding where you are as a team so we’ll take it day by day. We as players will be honest with Eddie. I’m sure we’ll find the right balance.”


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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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