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Topics - Neils

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Wasps Rugby Discussion / Strange but Nice
« on: December 06, 2023, 05:35:05 PM »
Walking between Terminal 2 and 3 at Heathrow just now and ahead of me was someone with one of those Wasps rucksacks. Big Wasps at the top.
Four years ago this weekend we were travelling to Edinburgh to play them. Now I am getting a flight to Lyon to go and watch Clermont murder Edinburgh.  Strange but nice!

Wasps Rugby Discussion / Is this not a little ridiculous with limited funds
« on: December 02, 2023, 09:18:35 AM »
Owen Farrell set to be offered new RFU central contract despite declaring himself unavailable for E? via

Wasps Rugby Discussion / Concusion Lawsuit
« on: December 01, 2023, 05:17:36 PM »
Phil Vickery, Mark Regan and Gavin Henson added  to the lawsuit.

Was surprised to see new names to me of Sean Lamont and Colin Charvis.

New headguard brings hope of gamechanging safety breakthrough

Design from Leicestershire-based company just waiting for green light of approval from governing body World Rugby
Robert Kitson
Robert Kitson
Fri 1 Dec 2023 08.00 GMT
Last modified on Fri 1 Dec 2023 10.06 GMT

Rugby players of all ages have received the same stern warning for decades. Traditional headguards may protect against cuts and abrasions but they don?t prevent concussions. A scrum cap that can substantially help to mitigate the risk of brain injuries in contact situations on the field, both in training and matches, would be a gamechanger for a sport very much in need of some positive developments.

Many manufacturers have tried ? and failed ? to convince the sport?s governing body they have found the answer. Finally, though, there are high hopes of a genuine breakthrough. A Leicestershire-based company called Hedkayse, who initially specialised in cycling helmets, have designed a rugby headguard that, according to data ratified by Imperial College, London, reduces the force of direct head impacts by up to 85%.
The Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson revealed he had early onset dementia in 2020.

The player welfare lobby group, Progressive Rugby, are also keenly awaiting the green light of official endorsement from World Rugby, which could be forthcoming within the next week or so. Crucially, the special impact foam involved, Enkayse, retains its vital qualities in extreme heat or cold and is specifically optimised to protect at body temperature. From schools ? where there is an obvious need to look after developing brains ? to the elite club game, there are potentially grateful clients everywhere.

It has taken years of research to reach this point, along with a mixture of tragedy, perseverance, luck and humour. The managing director of Hedkayse, George Fox, was inspired to investigate improved headgear after the death, almost 20 years ago, of a friend in a bike accident in France. The product design engineer subsequently caught the eye of the company?s co-founders after they saw YouTube videos of him hitting himself with baseball bats to demonstrate the body armour he was making. As Fox puts it: ?They said: ?This guy?s clearly a loonie, would he be up for trying to make a cycle helmet??

The personable Fox, who has designed thigh pads for many leading cricketers, was up for the challenge. ?It took ages and 4,000 iterations before we got there. We found a PU foam specialist in Somerset and did the formulating and moulding there. Then I?d take it all back, cut the foam up, do measurements, look at the densities and do impact tests. Gradually, we found a magical version that just worked. You realised why no one had done it before because it was really hard.?

The other happy accident was bumping into the former England rugby international Tim Stimpson. ?He wanted his kids to enjoy the sport but also has former playing colleagues who are struggling to remember their kids? names. So he asked if I would make a protective headguard for his kids. Then that turned into a wider conversation: why doesn?t this exist already and how can we engineer it to work better for kids and full grown angry blokes??

Another important step is due this month, as and when the Bristol Bears prop Max Lahiff wears it for the first time in a Premiership game. The 33-year-old is Bristol?s representative on the board of the Rugby Players Association (RPA) and has been testing the headguard in training for the past few months.

After some initial minor problems with keeping it fastened in scrums and mauls, he is a confirmed fan. ?It doesn?t feel much different to any other scrum cap. If it?s a colder day it does feel slightly more rigid compared to other headguards but once it warms up it?s very flexible and comfortable.?

The focus is also on injury prevention rather than making players more gung-ho. ?I feel this is a happy medium. You want something that doesn?t make you feel immortal but, at the same time, does its job.?

In Lahiff?s view, there is a further bonus. ?Ultimately, a lot of the appeal of rugby lies in its confrontational nature and the collisions. It?s a fine line between preserving the essence of that and not neutering it too much.?

Above all, though, the longer-term brain health benefits would be immense. ?When you?re a young man you?re full of piss and vinegar. These things don?t sit around in your consciousness. But I?ve had a few concussions and with high-profile players coming out with worrying signs of early onset dementia, it does start to loom more. It could be a massive, massive boon and some sort of shield to stem the tide.?

Not all his teammates have been rushing to embrace this cutting edge science. Lahiff was going to wear the prototype headguard against Saracens last week had ?someone not pinched it? in the buildup and has copped some lighthearted dressing-room stick from Ellis Genge ? ?You?re not wearing that, are you?? ? and others.

?They think I look like Magneto or Juggernaut from the X-Men,? Lahiff said. ?It is somewhat chunkier and more interesting-looking than the contemporary scrum-cap and lends a different aesthetic. You know what rugby players are like. Anything that?s a bit unusual gets scrutinised.?

There will certainly be significant interest when World Rugby?s verdict is confirmed, with globally authorised Hedkayse headguards set to be available immediately at a cost of between ?100 and ?120 if bought individually.

A potentially safer sport, with scientists, medics, administrators and players all nodding approvingly? Rugby is close to receiving its ultimate pre-Christmas bonus.

Wasps Rugby Discussion / Next Season TV
« on: December 01, 2023, 12:17:55 PM »
Premier TV have reclaimed both URC and Top 14 coverage from Viaplay.

Wasps Rugby Discussion / DECEMBER
« on: December 01, 2023, 06:58:58 AM »
The month of decision - at least as far as the RFU have said!

Wasps Rugby Discussion / Jacob and Paolo
« on: November 18, 2023, 09:35:28 AM »
Quite a good article behind the Times Paywall dated yesterday.

Wasps Rugby Discussion / 10 Changes that should be made - Article
« on: November 13, 2023, 03:30:53 PM »

Ten simple and effective law changes that should be made to rugby refereeing

After consulting with coaches, analysts and fans, Telegraph Sport has compiled a list of 10 easy tweaks that could quickly improve the game
By Charles Richardson, Rugby Reporter 13 November 2023 ? 11:47am

Although deemed a success, the Rugby World Cup was plagued by the vagaries and nuances of officiating.

Coaches complaining about referees, controversial decisions, and officials and their families receiving death threats were as commonplace ? and provoked more conversation ? than any wonder try or highlights reel emanating from France.

It would not be unreasonable to suggest that the World Cup, while magnificent, masked several of rugby?s issues. It is a sport which, currently, is still not quite sure what it wants to be. It was too easy for defenders to be kings, leaving attackers as paupers. There are too many stoppages, not enough urgency. Those who wish to spoil receive greater reward than those who wish to create. While both must be allowed to germinate in any team sport, the balance in rugby has tipped too far the wrong way. In a sport ? and world ? which is growing increasingly homogenous, creativity should be regarded as sacred, not left to peter out or play second fiddle.

The genie might be already out of the bottle. But, there are a couple of fundamentals to rugby as a sport in 2023: the teams are performing at a level whereby the spectacle is inhibited by the laws; and the laws ? or, more specifically, World Rugby?s interpretation of them ? are simply too arcane and complex to be applied consistently at tournaments like the World Cup, where the stakes are high.

After internal debate and consultation with coaches, analysts and fans, Telegraph Sport has compiled a list of 10 easy tweaks that could be applied to the laws of the game in a heartbeat. Perhaps, greater fundamental change is required, but such measures might end up tarnishing the fabric of the sport. These 10 tweaks are simple and effective; edicts to improve the sport in terms of spectacle and competition without compromising what makes it great.

1. Stop coaching

This might be the toughest, given how ingrained it has become, but it is also, paradoxically, one of the easiest. Referees need to communicate less. If a player is offside from chasing a kick, don?t tell them to get back, penalise them! If a player is offside at a ruck, don?t tell them to retreat, penalise them! If a player is deemed as off their feet at a ruck and continues to contest for the ball, don?t tell them, penalise them! They will not do it again. Discipline would improve tenfold, with players not willing to take the risk, keen to push the laws to the absolute limit ? and beyond.

The auxiliary benefit, too, would be that non-English-speaking teams would benefit, given they are palpably hampered every time they take the field with an English-speaking referee. Referees should speak with their whistle and little else.

2. Reduce TMO involvement

With the insidious increase in the power of the television match official, season on season, how long will it be before artificial intelligence is refereeing rugby matches? The TMO has been allowed to increase its remit for years, to a fault. There was the near-farcical situation at Gloucester on Friday night, when Bath captain Ben Spencer was sin-binned for a cynical offside on his own line but, because the infringement came in a try-scoring opportunity, the TMO was glancing at a potential Gloucester knock-on a few phases earlier. Had the spill been deemed as a knock-on, what would have happened to Spencer, who was yellow-carded for a non-dangerous act of foul play that occurred in a sort of vacuum period of the game which shouldn?t even have taken place? It would not have been the first instance in the past few years where rugby and the Hollywood blockbuster Inception had crossed paths.

The TMO?s remit should encompass try-scoring placements and severe acts of foul play only. That?s it. No slow-motion replays of forward passes ? more on that later ? and knock-ons, no slo-mo footage of ambiguous double movements.

And the bunker, while positive at a surface level, ended up causing more problems than it solved at the World Cup. It was a bit like taking paracetamol for tonsilitis; sure, it might improve the symptoms for four hours, but the infection will still require medical attention. A cure.

3. Turn all scrum penalties into free-kicks

This does not require much explanation. Too many games are decided on arbitrary scrum calls. The scrum is a way to restart the game. It is a fierce battleground, of course ? and must remain as such ? but teams scrummaging for penalties as a way of winning matches should not be allowed to continue.

Rightly or wrongly, the fact is that the narrative around scrums has become too negative for some time ? as Rob Baxter highlighted last week. Removing the risk of conceding a match-deciding penalty could result in more completed scrums, fewer resets, and greater competition for the ball. One leading analyst who spoke to Telegraph Sport said they would go even further, changing all infringements ? except dangerous, cynical or repeat offences ? to free-kicks. Too revolutionary for now, perhaps, but certainly worth monitoring.

4. Tidy up maul laws

This really only applies at line-outs ? which is bonkers in itself, given a set-piece maul, in rugby?s laws, has no separate code ? but mauls in this area are beyond messy. Players being instructed to ?not change their bind? by the referee; an action which involves their arms only, and allows them to do whatever they like with their bodies, except ?swimming?, where a player slides up the side of a maul illegally.

Most farcical, however, is that if opposing players end up on the attacking side of the maul ?legally?, with the ball available, when the scrum-half attempts to play the ball they are ?legally? entitled to dart straight for him or stick out hands and feet to disrupt him, because they are part of the maul and, therefore, the offside law of hindmost foot does not apply to them. Madness.

5. Enforce ? and tighten ? the ruck ?use it? countdown

The easiest tweak of this list? Referees could be stricter with enforcing the ?use it? law, whereby a team must play the ball five seconds after the referee has deemed it available. As it stands, this often leads to the dreaded ?caterpillar ruck? ? which would be tough to define, and therefore ban, in itself ? so enforcing this law would disrupt its formation. Only a positive. Could the limit be lowered to three seconds, too? Or, perhaps, once the referee has called ?use it?, the ball is automatically out after five seconds, rather than a resulting scrum?

6. Goal-line drop-outs should be for held-up only (at best)

A goal-line drop-out for the ball being held up over the line is more acceptable ? if only slightly ? but rewarding a team for kicking the ball into in-goal encourages a negative mindset ? and more kicking. Also, kicking the ball with enough power to reach the goal-line but not enough to roll dead has become a skill in itself in the sport ? which is a troubling avenue for rugby to go down. If the goal-line drop-out has to remain, then it should be for held-up, try-scoring opportunities only. If a team kicks the ball over the try line and the opposition touch it down, then it should revert back to a 22-metre drop-out.

7. Solve disparity in card severity

This is simple. No one disputes that Sam Cane?s tackle in the World Cup final was more severe than Siya Kolisi?s. But was the former?s really that much more severe than the latter?s to result in a punishment that was so much harsher? Cane off the field for the whole match; Kolisi for 10 minutes ? and millimetres, split-seconds decided it.

Cane absolutely deserved a harsher sentence ? which, along with his subsequent citing and three-match ban ? he received, but did New Zealand deserve to play the rest of the match with 14 while the eventual champion Springboks were forced to do so for just 10 minutes? Absolutely not. Of course, punishments need to be staggered to mirror degrees of severity but right now rugby has either life sentences or nights in the cells. It cannot continue. A 20-minute orange card for head contact could be the answer.

8. Reward jackalling that is only clearly and obviously legal

Easier said than done with the whistle in hand, but certainly an easy directive to enforce at boardroom level. Banning the jackal in its entirety might be the answer ? a philosophical shift to rugby?s engineering would require more research ? as like so many facets of the sport, the defensive side gains too much of an advantage. As Telegraph Sport revealed in the World Cup, some referees at rugby?s showpiece were favouring the defensive side as often as 70 per cent of the time in terms of breakdown penalties. That is not the fault of the officials, who deserve sympathy in this area. There are often millimetres between a legal and illegal jackal, and the only way to discern the difference accurately and regularly is by getting on your hands and knees and using a magnifying glass.

As it stands, players take advantage of this, knowing that they might get away with an illegal jackal and that, in any case, it is worth the risk. Referees give the benefit of doubt to the defender too often. Unless a jackaller is clearly and obviously legal ? with absolutely no floor contact and no knee resting on the ball-carrier ? then they should not be rewarded with a holding-on penalty. And, as highlighted in entry No 1, if they are not supporting their own body weight, then they should be penalised immediately ? not afforded a warning by a loquacious referee.

9. Prohibit dummying at scrums and rucks ? already in law

This is already enshrined in rugby?s laws, yet scrum-halves get away with murder in this area, dummying mainly box-kicks but also passes from rucks, scrums and mauls. It is yet another example of the kicker being king. Prohibit the dummying and allow more pressure on the clearance.

10. Abolish the nonsensical ?direction of hands? forward-pass law

No one knows what a forward pass is anymore. If anyone even dares to contest that they do, they are either a wizard or a liar. Passes which look blatantly forward are cleared owing to the direction of the attacker?s hands, while passes which often look marginal are analysed to within an inch of their life. There is probably a television angle to prove that most flat-looking passes in a match travel either forwards or backwards, such is the trickery of the camera.

Rugby must return ? without the TMO?s input ? to a more anecdotal approach to forward passes. If it looks forward, it is. If it doesn?t, it is not.


Lawrence Dallaglio: TMOs and 'paralysis by analysis' is killing rugby

Rugby World Cup winner believes the game's powerbrokers must cash in on the afterglow of a superb World Cup
By Jeremy Wilson, Chief Sports Reporter 9 November 2023 ? 5:03pm
Assistant Referee Nic Berry and Referee Mathieu Raynal watch the big screen as the TMO reviews the play during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between England and
Lawrence Dallaglio has issued a call for rugby to use the World Cup as a modernising springboard and has warned against ?paralysis by analysis? with video reviews.

The 2003 World Cup winner has seen how other sports have connected with new audiences and wants rugby to open up its stars to the wider public, including in-game interviews with head coaches and mandatory media appearances from captains and directors of rugby.

Dallaglio also suggested consulting World Cup final referee Wayne Barnes to help balance video replays with speeding up the game, and for the Government to consider an independent financial regulator following the suspensions of London Irish, Worcester and Wasps.

?We need to stop analysing ourselves by action replay in every single situation ? it?s paralysis by analysis,? said the former England captain, warning that it risked ?killing? the game.

?We want to get the right decisions but we also want a game that flows.  That I understand is a difficult balance. You?ve got a DOR [director of rugby] on the one hand sending you 15 video replays of the game where decisions should have been made in a different direction. But on the other side, they sit down and say, ?speed the game up?.

?Where does the referee?s role start and finish? Wayne Barnes refereed the World Cup final brilliantly but seemed to get criticised very unfairly, grotesquely and wrongly, because of the decisions made outside of his remit with the TMO [television match official].

?As far as I can remember the referee used to be the guy who made the decisions. That?s rugby?s challenge - being able to make the product really interesting, fun and digestible, not just on the pitch but off it as well, and grow the audience but equally using technology in the right way.

?A lot of people, who have got a lot of respect in the game - coaches and players - are saying, ?maybe we are going just a little bit too far?. Maybe we should get people like Wayne Barnes much more involved, and find the right answers to making the game well refereed but also fluid.?

Dallaglio is also urging rugby?s players, coaches and governing bodies to think about how they can ?piggy back off a wonderful World Cup? and attract supporters beyond the core fanbase.

?The game needs to help itself by giving us the personalities,? said Dallaglio, a pundit for TNT Sports. ?By the end of a World Cup, people know who are playing for England again - I?m talking about if you?re not a rugby fan. We need buy in. I think players and clubs can be a lot more part of the solutions.

?We need the captain after the game to talk about his team?s performance. We need the DOR [director of rugby] after the game and before the game. During the game, why can?t we have the lead coach? He could chat. The only way we are going to grow our game is if people can identify with the personalities and the characters. You watch F1 - you get the head of McLaren, the head of Mercedes [talking] ? you don?t get the third coach.

?People want to understand the personalities. They want to hear from the best players, they want to hear from the best coaches. They shouldn?t be allowed to hide away. I think that they should be non-negotiable if you want the cheque at the end of the season.

?Continually showing head contact collisions is not going to help the game. If you continually show cars smash into each other, you tend not to be too excited about driving. We need to market, and grow the game in the right way, showing the right things, while recognising that concussion and player welfare are very, very important.?

Dallaglio also believes the way the start of the Premiership season has merged into the World Cup must now be capitalised on.

?You?ve got this incredible interest in what was a magnificent international tournament and then some of the best players in the world are coming back to the English league and playing there,? he said.

?We?re 80 days away from the Six Nations. Steve Borthwick will be looking for players he feels are the right players to take England forward - many of which he has in his squad now - but there?s got to be some additions. You?ve got an opportunity to sprint out of the blocks between now and Christmas.

?I always liked the old school competition for places. I don?t like international squads being named early. I think it gives people a comfort they don?t deserve. International squads should be announced a week before you get together. There should be a bit of jeopardy and excitement around them.?

Dallaglio remains a director at Wasps, who have just announced plans to potentially relocate to Kent, where talks are ongoing with Sevenoaks District Council over a new multi-use stadium for elite sport.

?There is a real appetite within Wasps to get Wasps to return to the highest league possible,? he said. ?Obviously there needs to be a bit of clarity from the RFU and Premiership Rugby. Is there any funding?

?There are lots of lessons to be learnt on how to finance rugby going forward. I think Wasps are looking for a mix of institutional and private investment so there isn?t a single point of failure.

?The King [in the King?s speech] has announced that the Premier League [in football] will have an independent financial audit. Maybe the King should announce that rugby should have that same level of independent financial governance.?

Wasps Rugby Discussion / Rugby on course for 2028 Club World Cup
« on: November 09, 2023, 09:34:06 AM »

Rugby on course for 2028 Club World Cup

European chiefs reveal there is ?real warmth? towards tournament amongst northern and southern hemisphere sides
By Daniel Schofield, Deputy Rugby Union Correspondent 8 November 2023 ? 3:51pm

European rugby chiefs insist there remains ?real warmth? towards a Club World Cup but concede the new competition would not launch until 2028 at the earliest.

Dominic McKay, chairman of the European Professional Club Rugby, which organises the Champions and Challenge Cups, revealed that there is a strong appetite in both hemispheres to establish a Club World Cup which he believes would also attract considerable interest from broadcasters.

?There?s a warmth on trying to identify once and for all who is the greatest club in the world, I think that?s the mantle a lot of European and South African clubs like the challenge of, trying to settle that argument,? McKay said. ?There?s a real warmth to develop a World Club Cup and a number of the clubs from France and the UK were pushing this quite hard.

?The one thing I would say is there is a real warmth behind this project in a way that rugby?s got lots of great projects that never quite see the light of day. This one has got one warmth from both the northern hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere and I?m very pleased about that.?

The current working model would be for eight clubs, which would include the South African franchises from the United Rugby Championship, to qualify from the Champions Cup pool stages, who would then face eight clubs from the southern hemisphere in a straight knockout competition contested over four weekends.

There had been plans to launch the Club World Cup in 2025 but this has now been delayed for at least three years as administrators work through the significant logistical challenges. McKay says that any new competition must benefit the players as well as becoming a sustainable part of the rugby calendar.

?We want to do something that?s meaningful and has a pattern of regularity,? McKay said. ?We?re looking at doing something, if we can, potentially in 2028 and potentially 2032. We?re working towards that and we?re having great dialogue with our colleagues in the southern hemisphere. I suspect the next few months will be really instructive on that.?

McKay was speaking from the first EPCR club conference in Toulouse, which gathered representatives from 42 clubs, eight unions, three leagues, the Six Nations, World Rugby and figures from the women?s game. One of the overriding conclusions from the meeting, he says, is that ?no part of the game can be successful without a genuine interaction between the club and international games?.

McKay also confirmed that launching a women?s version of the Champions Cup is ?something that we?d love to do? although it is still in the early stages. ?There is a very active discussion ongoing at the moment around that,? McKay said.

?We want to do that in a respectful and timely manner, so we?re at the foothills of that as a project but we?re very encouraged from the clubs and unions to try and deliver something in the short to medium term on that one.?

Yet despite potentially launching two new competitions into an already congested calendar, McKay conceded that the format of the showpiece Champions Cup needs to stay the same after several years of tinkering with the structure.

?We?ve got a job to do across the global game to ensure that we excite and inspire our existing supporters and the supporters of the future by making it easy and accessible for them to enjoy the rugby both in the stadium, but also on broadcast,? McKay said.

?The point about having settled structures and having easy-to-understand formats is really very uppermost in our mind. We don?t want to make changes just for the sake of changes in the future.?

English rugby union adjusts to grim reality as RFU thrashes out new deal

Crisis-hit domestic game faces watershed season as remaining Premiership clubs await new professional game partnership
Luke McLaughlin - Guardian
Tue 7 Nov 2023 11.00 GMT
Last modified on Tue 7 Nov 2023 12.16 GMT

Memories of the Rugby World Cup are already fading. Regrets over chances missed, matches let slip away, even futile complaints about referees are receding into the background. Packed away for the next four years, perhaps, as the champions? trophy tour concludes in South Africa.

Fans and players in England should be focusing on their bread and butter: the weekly churn of domestic top-flight fixtures, a full diary of dates up and down the country, with the Six Nations punctuating the progress of a packed domestic schedule.

But that is not the case for Worcester Warriors, Wasps or London Irish. A seven-week sojourn in France provided a welcome distraction for many fans, with the scrum-half Danny Care expressing his sincere hope that English success could ?filter through? to the grassroots. But the domestic game now faces a new reality following Worcester?s demise more than a year ago, an event that ushered in a series of catastrophes.

First the Warriors, then Wasps, then London Irish folded. The collapse of Jersey Reds, the Championship title holders, was the latest blow. While the daily news cycle moves on, the disintegration of these clubs remains an ongoing tragedy.

?It has left a void in the city,? says Bob Low, a long-time supporter and board member of Worcester Warriors Supporters Association, a newly-formed body with what he calls the ?romantic ideal? of returning elite rugby to Sixways. ?There?s a definite void at the moment. You go the pubs and there?s something missing. And there?s certainly something missing from my weekends.?

It is a similar story for Duncan Kendall, vice chair of the London Irish Supporters Club, who still has player awards to hand out for last season for a professional club that no longer exists. ?I need to go to a couple of Premiership games because I want to give the players permanent mementos,? Kendall says. ?Our player of the season, Tom Pearson, is up at Northampton now. And Chandler Cunningham-South [young player of the season] is at Harlequins. It?s quite sad in a way.?

If this all sounds depressing that?s because it is, but neither it is an attempt to talk the game down. Had England held firm against South Africa in that semi-final and found a way past New Zealand the following week, there is little doubt the resulting hype would merely have papered over some ever-widening cracks.

Of course it is much easier to focus on problems rather than find solutions. Wasps are planning a revival, the Warriors too are investigating a potential route back. ?There?s talk someone might put together a ?phoenix? club,? Kendall says of the Exiles, whose amateur side celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. ?But it would be a whole new set of people and players.?

Still, fundamentally, the numbers stubbornly refuse to add up for too many clubs. Inflated wage bills, over-reliance on wealthy benefactors and a general trend of falling attendances are just some of the issues. The suspension of relegation from the top flight, while reassuring in the short-term for clubs, is also having a pernicious effect: the lack of jeopardy that means for many fixtures is profoundly damaging to the product. Given the reduced number of games, too, a discount will surely be due to the TV rights-holders (TNT Sport declined to comment).

?I don?t think you can fiddle about at the edges of this problem because it?s so significant,? Leicester?s former chief executive, Simon Cohen, told the Guardian in June. ?Unless you significantly change the governance model you?re not going to be able to do anything. I?ve seen lots of talk about getting more revenue. I think that?s a complete red herring. It?s about having a sustainable model.?

On which note, the Rugby Football Union is negotiating a new professional game partnership with the objective of restructuring what the chief executive, Bill Sweeney, calls a ?broken? system. The hope is for details of the new agreement to be made public next month.

Closer marketing efforts between the RFU and Premiership Rugby will form part of it as well as plans for ?hybrid? England player contracts. While marketing is a key pillar of any future strategy, social-media impressions do not pay the rent, and remodelling England players? contracts feels like tinkering around the edges of a systemic problem.

Asked if player salaries must be reduced in coming seasons Exeter?s director of rugby, Rob Baxter, said on Sunday: ?It will depend, because every club is set up differently. If you?re set up to be a profit-making business that has to settle debts, you will have to run your player wages differently to a club that can have an investor who?s prepared to throw money away at the end of every season. It?s not for me to decide which one is the right model and which one is the wrong model.?

While there is nothing inherently wrong with wealthy backers, it is far from a robust way to operate a business. Just ask anyone who works in professional cycling. ?We?ve got to promote the good stuff and stop bringing up the bad stuff as the only important thing in the game,? Baxter continued. ?My only hope [for the forthcoming deal] is that the game as a whole in this country comes to an agreement about how we can all talk and feel positively about everything that?s important in rugby.?

When Covid hit in 2020, London Irish?s Mick Crossan said he could no longer afford to run the club at a loss of ?4m a year. ?We were aware that Mick was pumping money in,? says Kendall. ?But you don?t believe that?s ever going to stop. You believe it?ll sort itself out.?

There is a consensus that something drastic needs to change. Sweeney has said the forthcoming deal is a chance to set aside self-interest. It must be hoped that principle applies to the RFU, and Sweeney himself, as much as any other player in the game.

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