Despite increased calls in recent weeks for the Gallagher Premiership to be ring-fenced and a stop put to relegation to the Championship, Bath boss Stuart Hooper doesn’t believe five match cancellations is a high enough number for the current format to change.
There have been claims that the cancellations and the subsequent four/two match points split have damaged the integrity of the league and how the table looks.
For example, London Irish and Gloucester have had one win each this term but because Irish have two matches called off, they were handed four extra points even though they were deemed responsible for the game-cancelling outbreaks.
That has left Irish in tenth spot on nine points rather than at the bottom, a point behind twelfth place Gloucester who have six points.
The competitiveness of the Premiership suffered from the absence of relegation last term. It was late January when it was confirmed that Saracens would be automatically relegated due to repeated salary cap breaches and it put an end to worries about the drop at Leicester and a host of other clubs.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 7, 2021
That development happened after just eight rounds of fixtures, taking away the pressures associated with playing for top-flight survival. Now, with just five rounds of the league complete, there are calls for relegation not to happen, but Hooper believes it is too early in the season for that decision to happen.
“At the moment I don’t think we are at that stage,” he said ahead of Bath’s Friday night round six fixture at home to Wasps. “I don’t think there have been enough games disrupted for that to be a reason to force a ring-fencing, but I’m sure it is something that is on the agenda anyway and potentially accelerated through the situation we are in.
“There is only one way to look at the Premiership table and that is you need enough points to get into the top four. Covid, the cancellation of games, it’s a factor and okay it’s not always in your control, but you have to make sure the bits that are in your control you do the most you can.
“We kind of go week to week. You just don’t know. We don’t know where this is going to go. What we have to do is what we can when we can and if we do that we believe we will have ourselves in the right place, but there is no real way around it I’m afraid.”
A number of potential signings have been linked with Bath in recent weeks, including Cheetahs hooker Jacques du Toit. Football transfers in England have been affected by the rubber-stamped departure of Britain from the European Union on December 31.
However, Hooper said there isn’t any sudden change to the rules governing the Premiership’s recruitment of players from overseas. “Nothing immediately,” he said when asked was there now any additional red tape. “I’m sure at some point we will get some advice. If I’m honest, most of the advice at the moment is Covid-related. I’m sure when we get a bit of respite from that we will begin to get some more advice on the EU stuff.”
“I thought it was going to be like kids rugby or 20s rugby in the Premiership and I didn’t understand it was a different game completely"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 8, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now