The RFU are to offer a £16million jackpot as an incentive to prevent their Premiership from being swamped by foreign players to the same extent as their footballing counterpart.
Peter Jackson writes for the Daily Mail that the reward money will be available for a seven-year period from next year as an incentive to protect Martin Johnson’s England rescue operation being undermined by an invasion from overseas – a scheme devised to avoid falling foul of European employment law.
Rob Andrew, the RFU’s director of elite rugby, said: ‘The stats show that the Premiership playing population is pretty much 65 per cent English-qualified and 35 per cent non-English qualified.
‘In football, it’s the other way round. If our English-qualified figure starts to fall, then that will begin to affect the national team. There can be no question that is starting to happen in soccer.
‘We are working hard to prevent that happening. We fully intend keeping the percentage of English-qualified at 65 per cent-plus and we intend to do that by providing English players of higher quality.’
From next year, the RFU will pay £210,000-per-club per-season to those whose 22-man squads contain an average of 14 English-qualified players throughout their domestic and European campaigns.
The figure will then rise towards £300,000 for those increasing their match-day English contingent to 15 over the course of the season.
‘Nobody has ever said we don’t want foreign players,’ said Andrew. ‘There have been too many over certain periods but we do not have an issue with quality foreign players. Where we do have an issue is with the run-of-the-mill foreign players who stand in the way of the development of young English players.
‘You look at those Premiership clubs who recognise the benefit of English-qualified players – Leicester and Wasps. Others, like Gloucester, Harlequins and Bath, are moving in that direction.
‘English players, as Wasps showed last season, will be loyal and they will drive a winning culture despite being away on international duty at times during the season.
‘In time, the scheme will have the desired effect because you will have club chief executives and chairmen asking: “Why isn’t our academy producing more quality players?” If you rely too much on foreign players to come for the money, they will take it and go two years down the line. But what will they have left behind?’
Northampton discovered that in painful circumstances two seasons ago. Coincidence or not, their policy of importing a battery of overseas internationals resulted in their relegation.
England, it could be argued, have not been slow to help themselves to the occasional foreigner by stamping a red rose on their cap, including the New Zealand trio of Lesley Vainikolo, Mark van Gisbergen and Henry Paul.
Meanwhile, the mysterious superstar of world rugby, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, is due to land in London this weekend for talks with Leicester, despite having been called ‘a disgrace’ by an international colleague.
The 27-year-old Fijian wing had been due to restart his troubled professional career in Paris with the capital’s second division club Racing Metro and join his try-scoring compatriot, Sereli Bobo. He has accused Caucau of reneging on his contract in France to sign for Leicester instead.
‘It is a disgrace to all Fijian players who have made their mark in the elite French competition,’ said Bobo, a European Cup finalist with Biarritz last year.
‘We are disappointed and, at the same time, embarrassed with his attitude. It is very unprofessional for a player whom the French rugby fans regard as one of the best in the sport.’
Caucau, whose roasting of Gloucester for Agen in a European Cup tie prompted Mike Tindall to describe him as the best player he had ever seen, has returned to club rugby in Fiji since being sacked by Agen last season.
Leicester invited Caucau to spend a week at the club earlier this month but have already been waiting at least 10 days for him to turn up.
Danny Grewcock, Bath’s rugged lock who is 36 in November, will miss the first two months of the season following a biceps operation.Tweet