Will the Premiership go to war with the URC?

Will the Premiership go to war with the URC?

Maybe Eddie Jones was right after all. After just a few months of exploring the club scene in 2016, as England’s new head coach, he knew in his heart that there were only eight or nine fully sustainable professionals in the country. The depth of game quality did not justify more than that.

Of course, none of Jones’s wishes to solve the perceived problem came true. The Gallagher Premiership is far from shrinking, but has now expanded to 13 clubs and all are protected from the threat of relegation. This vicious circle represents the number of current shareholders in professional gaming in England and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

As the number of clubs has grown, most other aspects of English professional play are shrinking around them. The salary cap at Gallagher Premiership, which was £ 7 million in 2020, fell to £ 6.4 million in 2021 and currently stands at £ 5 million, with the second player in each club no longer being exempt from the limits next season. .

These cuts were agreed against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the grim basic fact that only one English club (Exeter Chiefs) ever managed to reach a turning point in the professional era. Players’ budgets are becoming increasingly unfavorable compared to their main rivals in France (£ 8.5-9 million) and even Ireland, with an estimated £ 6.3 million per province.

It seems like a world far from the political turmoil before the 2014-15 season, when the threat of secession of English and French clubs forced a major restructuring of European club competition. LNR and Premiership Rugby have in fact taken over the administration and marketing of these two tournaments under the banner of the newly formed European professional rugby cluband quickly increased their own representation in them.

Gone are the days when Wales could boast three teams in the European Cup. (Photo by Nick Potts / PA Images via Getty Images)

Ten or eleven clubs from [then] For the 12, made up of clubs / regions from Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy that previously participated in the old Champions Cup format, 20 teams were reduced back to seven in the new tournament. The trick worked: where teams from Ireland won five of seven competitions between 2005 and 2012, clubs from England and France raised the Champions Cup trophy in nine of the ten seasons since then.

The latest iteration of the Heineken Champions Cup includes eight teams from each major league – the Gallagher Premiership in England, the Top 14 in France and the URC containing the Celtic nations and most recently South Africa. The introduction of former Super Rugby franchises from the republic and the recovery of Ireland speak for further restructuring, with the URC likely to become a power in the Northern Hemisphere that will surpass the Premiership.

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter explained the punishable effects of the reduced salary cap in England eloquently:

“At the moment, I’m finding that most of the expected salary conditions are salaries that you would still expect you to pay if it were a market of £ 6.4 million.

“It really doesn’t seem to be that kind of awareness at this stage. Theoretically, it’s probably a little over a 25 percent drop when there is talk of other players disappearing from the awning next season if they don’t have a contract.

Based on the considerations of 2013, it would seem like a good time to increase the URC’s representation in the European competition in order to further increase gaming standards.

“This makes the Premiership less competitive when it comes to Southern Hemisphere parties. Some of the basic salary levels in New Zealand and Australia are now, in fact, comparable to what we could have offered, whereas previously they were £ 6.4 million. [market]You can be very competitive.

“[Purely] under a basic level contract, which is not really the case now. I’m not sure if that will change over the next two years, but I think it will put a strain on development. [home-grown] players.”

Due to Kolpak’s decision, South African players are not included in the foreign import limit and have provided a backbone to certain Premiership parties, such as Sale. With the four leading South African franchises now headquartered in the European competition, it is easy to predict that these players find the prospects of returning home or moving to the URC club more attractive. The Manchester club already knows that at the end of the current season they will lose Lood De Jager, JP du Preeze, Faf de Klerk and Rohan Jans van Rensburg. This is a big tranche of talent that needs to be replaced.

At the same time, the four Irish provinces were busy widening the gap between them and their English counterparts in the Champions Cup results. They won eight of 11 matches with an average winning difference of just under 15 points per game. Two of these English victories took place in matches between the best club in the Gallagher Premiership (Leicester Tigers) and the so-called ‘fourth province’ in Ireland, Connacht. Despite this difference, Leicester won by only seven points in a two-game match.

Based on the considerations of 2013, it would seem like a good time to increase the URC’s representation in the European competition in order to further increase gaming standards. As SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux noted when the URC was founded: “For many years, South African rugby has envisioned the future of rugby in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a turning point in the history of South African rugby, opening new doors and heralding a new and exciting era for our sport. Why not discourage the arrival of a traditional power from the southern hemisphere to the north by creating more space for their parties in a top European tournament?

With the immediate success of South African franchises in the URC, will a change be needed for the Champions Cup? (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Getty Images / Gallo Images)

The real point of comparison for the Gallagher Premiership is not the current gold standard for the Irish Provincial Game (Leinster), but the middle order – the other three provinces follow a short distance behind them.

Munster defeated Rob Baxter’s Exeter Chiefs over two stages in the 16th round of the Champions Cup in the absence of several key players of international descent, established or promising: David Kilcoyne, Tadhg Beirne, RG Snyman, Gavin Coombes, Chris Cloete [and captain Peter O’Mahony for the first leg] forward; Andrew Conway and Joey Carbery [for the first leg] for.

The fact that Munster is training a South African – Johan van Graan, with JP Ferreira as his defensive assistant – only added another layer of intrigue to the godless alliance built around the green jersey, whether it was emerald or myrtle.

In the last few years, Exeter has enjoyed the strongest attack based on possession of the ball in the Premiership, while the greatest advantage of Munster is its ability to take the ball in contact. Juggernaut Sandy Park likes to keep the ball, the dervishes from Thomond Park don’t like anything better than pinching it. It paved the way for a classic clash of styles.

The very first sequence of the game predicted much of what was to come. It started by placing Exeter on the dividing line in just 50 seconds in the game hours and ended at 11.thu holding phase, one minute and 40 seconds later. The Chiefs advanced 40 meters, but lost the ball when they turned ten meters from the Manster goal:

The men in red set out early, attacked two men, won the collision, and forced one of the two defenders through the clearing screen to Exeter No. 9. The camera shot represents a “victory” for defense. four Exeter players attending the match, unlike the only Munsterman, and all defensive players in perfect condition – on their feet and standing to cover the width of the field in the front line and in the back field.

The picture improved for D at a similar stage on the opposite side of the pitch:

This time, one of the largest ball carriers in Exeter (second row, Sam Skinner) is forced into further contact and the ball is almost lost when Peter O’Mahony turns.

The turn took place 50 seconds later, in the hands of the same player:

Ball carrier Johnny Gray is knocked back one or two steps back during the collision, forcing two Exeter support players to change their entry angle. One has already left his feet, while the other is too high to effectively remove Captain Munster.

Until 38thu by the minute of the first period, Munster had already turned seven balls on the board, and by the end of the game, that number had risen to a colossal 11 thefts created by seven different players. Most were achieved, when it really mattered, deep in the red zone:

In the first case, John Hodnett cuts the ball carrier for Jack O’Donoghue number 8 to move across the top for the poacher. In the second example, Jean Kleyn steals in the second row and Hooker Niall Scannell cleans the ball at the base.

The full-time threat of a collapse denied Exeter their usual continuity in attack, and it was no different when defenders, such as primary clearing players and ball defenders, had to join the attack:

The Chiefs try to move the ball in width, but the two big Munster centers, Damian de Allende and Chris Farrell, are more physically impressive than the Exeter’s inner defenders and drive them away from the ball. De Allende is up for it again in the second example and leads the anti-missile to gain more turnaround.

It was the iconic O’Mahony who finished at the top of the rankings with three individual turns, the most notable of which was the monstrous double involvement – first he drove Jacques Vermeulen to the scrum base, then the Zimbabwean giant Dave Ewers returned. on the flint tip of another winning counter-ruck:

None of the English Premiership teams advanced to the semi-finals in the Champions Cup or the Challenge Cup in the 2021-22 season, and the situation is unlikely to improve as the salary cap continues to fall and the best-imported talents remain out of reach.

Recent results show that Ireland’s domestic structure is more compact and manageable than it is now in England, and the addition of South African ex-super rugby franchises to top European tournaments shows the way to the future. It is highly likely that the United Rugby Championship will become the primary Top 14 challenger for the main honors and that reality must be reflected in the increased representation of the old “Celtic League” and its new, unexpected and truly global reach.

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