Yesterday Wasps announced the departure of four more players.
While the departure of a quartet of players is hardly remarkable in and of itself, the names being let go have raised eyebrows.
Both Paul Doran Jones and Kyle Eastmond are England internationals, and what’s more, their departure along with Danny Cipriani and James Haskell brings to four the total of non-retiring England internationals being released by the club in just one season.
Wasps headcoach Dai Young said: “Professional rugby is a tough world within which players and coaches do move clubs, but it still can be a sad time when faces change.”
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What’s more concerning is at least three of those players are deemed surplus to requirements largely as a result of big-name Southern Hemisphere signings, either already at the club or pending over the summer.
Brad Shields is a direct replacement for Haskell, while the bank-breaking signing of Lima Sopoaga has also effectively ended the reign of club stalwart Cipriani.
The 30-year-old is currently waiting on whether on not Eddie Jones picks him for England before deciding his future. According to Andy Goode writing for RugbyPass: “I spoke to Danny the other day and he’s basically waiting to see if Eddie Jones picks him before he makes up his mind and finalises where he’s going to be next season, so the ramifications of whether he’s selected or not are enormous.”
An argument can be made that Haskell and Eastmond are as much a victim of ageing and injury struggles respectively, as an influx of playing talent.
The gifted Eastmond has played just 23 times for Wasps over two seasons, scoring four tries. Injury has played a role in limiting his appearances for the Coventry based club, but so too has the presence of Wallaby Kurtley Beale (last season), Springbok Juan de Jongh, Fijian Gabiriele Lovobalavu and New Zealander Jimmy Goperth.
He may now return to League.
One can hardly imagine the RFU are jumping for joy at the news. The landmark deal they penned in 2016 is worth roughly £2 million per Premiership club per year and one would imagine they’d like for all four players to find a home in the England elite competition where they can continue remain available for selection.
It’s not difficult to draw a line between the decline of the French national team and the influx of non-French qualified players, who Top14 and ProD2 clubs have poached from the relatively low paying Super Rugby and second-tier competitions across the Southern Hemisphere; all at the expense of developing their own talent.
Of Racing 92s starting fifteen against Agen on the weekend, just six were French qualified; and that’s a ratio that is played out across the league. In stark contrast, 13 of the Leinster starting fifteen that took apart the Scarlets team in the Champions Cup semi-final in the Aviva are Irish qualified, with a remarkable ten of those coming through the Leinster academy system.
The fate of France is one the RFU will be desperate to avoid, yet they can do little but look on as Premiership sides favour buying in talent over developing players and academy systems. Exeter Chiefs may one of the few sides to buck the trend (Read Exeter’s not so secret weapon in bid for domination moves into next phase), but as Premiership revenues increase while Super Rugby’s wane, clubs desperate for immediate fixes will continue to raid their Southern neighbours for talent.
Whatever way you spin it, it’s not good news for England Rugby.
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