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World Cup squads preparation chaos

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Preparations for World Cup thrown into chaos as Premiership and World Rugby collide

Teams at the Rugby World Cup could be facing a major problem when it comes to preparation after an insurance wrangle between the Premiership Rugby Limited and World Rugby.

The Guardian report that Premiership Rugby Limited (PRL) will stop players from joining up with their national team squads until mid-August, with England being the exception because of the £220m Professional Game Agreement between the PRL and the RFU which was signed in 2016.

The major issue is insurance for injuries picked up while on international duty, with World Rugby recently raising the salary threshold of full compensation for an injured player from £225,000 to £350,000, but the PRL don’t think it’s enough, Guardian journalist Gerard Meagher reports.

That could mean teams would only have their full compliment of players 35 days before the opening game of the Rugby World Cup, which is on September 20th when hosts Japan face Russia in Pool A.

Among those who could be most affected are Scotland, who face what could be a Pool A decider against Ireland in their opening match, on Sunday 22nd. Gregor Townsend had nine Premiership players in his Autumn international squad, while their talismanic full back Stuart Hogg is due to join Exeter Chiefs this summer, albeit he may have a clause in his contract. Ireland on the other hand only use players under their central contract system and will have far longer to prepare for the match with Scotland.

Wales have several of their prominent players in the Premiership too, Dan Biggar at Northampton, Toby Faletau, Luke Charteris and Rhys Priestland at Bath, Liam Williams at Saracens, Tomas Francis at Exeter Chiefs, while Worcester Warriors winger Josh Adams, who is out of contract in the summer, may be playing for a Welsh-based side by then.

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Fiji would potentially be without the likes of Leicester’s Campese Ma’afu, Newcastle Falcons trio Tevita Cavubati, Nemani Nagusa and Vereniki Goneva, while London Irish prop Manasa Saulo may be in the Premiership should they secure promotion.

Samoa would also be hit severely – Newcastle Falcons’ Logovi’i Mulipola, a large contingent at Bristol Bears including Jack Lam, Tusi Pisi, Alapati Leiua, Jordan Lay and Northampton Saints’ Ahsee Tuala, while there were four London Irish players in the recent Samoan November squad – TJ Ioane, Ofisa Treviranus, Filo Paulo and Motu Matu’u.

Tonga’s preparations would be dented by the absence of their captain Siale Piutau, of Bristol Bears, Newcastle Falcons halfback Sonatane Takulua, Saracens flanker Sione Vailanu and Leicester Tigers backrow duo Sione Kalamafoni and Valentino Mapapalangi.

There are also sizeable contingents of players from South Africa, Georgia, Russia and Italy playing in the Premiership, among others.

Southern Hemisphere teams competing in the Rugby Championship will have the advantage of having an extra official window to prepare close to the World Cup, with the Rugby Championship set to begin on July 20th, however the Guardian point out that there will be a period of time between the two international windows, so the likes of Sale’s Faf de Klerk and Gloucester’s Franco Mostert could be in limbo.

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Preparations for World Cup thrown into chaos as Premiership and World Rugby collide