A few things to catch up on

Jamie George

I go away for just a straightforward skiing weekend and it all kicks off again in the salary cap scandal.

The news that Saracens will be relegated at the end of this season broke over the weekend, which is a quite extraordinary twist. The initial punishment seemed very severe, and Saracens insisted that they would comply with all regulations and requests.

However, now it seems that they are not compliant at all, and rather than opt for openness and transparency, they have chosen relegation. This gives them a season in the Championship to get their house in order, slightly further from the limelight, before they’ll almost certainly win promotion back to the Premiership.

I had thought that the salary cap might precipitate a change in the Premiership structure, with ring-fencing a possibility but that seems unlikely now because it would be seen as forgiveness for Saracens’ crimes.

This really is an incredible story, and I feel like something has to change, even if it isn’t ring-fencing after all.

Another broken arm for Billy Vunipola

As if your employer imploding and providing nothing but uncertainty wasn’t bad enough for Billy Vunipola, he broke is arm yesterday and will miss the Six Nations.

He’s obviously a key player for England, but given his injury record, now feels like a good time to find a suitable backup.

Ben Earl and Alex Dombrandt come to mind as players that could be given a chance when Eddie Jones names his squad today. Is anyone else putting their hand up for selection?

Borthwick leaving England Rugby

Steve Borthwick will leave his role as England assistant coach at the end of the season with Jason Ryles from Melbourne Storm joining in November.

It has already been announced that Borthwick will move from forwards coach to skills coach for the upcoming Six Nations, which seems like an odd move to me. What’s next, Jason Robinson joining as lineout coach?

Jones said: “I have had a great seven years with Steve. He is a loyal, hard-working and analytical coach but I understand he needs now to get out on his own following this campaign. He’s made that decision and we are really pleased for him.

Jason Ryles, who is currently coaching at the Australian rugby league side, Melbourne Storm, will join Jones’ coaching staff ahead of the Quilter Internationals later in the year as skills coach.

Ryles has been assistant coach of Melbourne since 2016 and helped them to Premiership success in 2017, two other grand final appearances as well as last season’s Minor Premiership. He was also assistant coach for the Junior Kangaroos in 2016 and 2017 and the New South Wales U20s State of Origin side in 2012. He has briefly spent time in recent seasons with England assisting Jones and his coaches.

The 40 year-old made his playing debut in 2000 for St George Illawarra Dragons before moving to the French super league side, Catalans Dragons, for two years. He returned to Australia in 2010 to play for Sydney Roosters and then the Storm in 2012. He played 15 times for the Kangaroos and represented NSW eight times in State of Origin.

Ryles said: “I am really excited about the opportunity to work in a world-class programme with the England national team and someone like Eddie with his experience is very appealing for me. It will be a real honour to work with some of the best coaches and so many quality England players.

“I was really impressed in the times that I have come into camp previously with how organised everything is and it’s been a really enjoyable experience from which I have learned a lot. My background as a former rugby league player and coach I hope will be really useful and add to the overall programme.

“I’d like to thank Storm for the great opportunities the club have given me both as a player and a coach. I’ve loved my time at this club, working alongside a great group of coaches and players, and our family has certainly enjoyed life here in Melbourne.”

Jones said: “We are really pleased that Jason Ryles will be joining us as skills coach in November after his commitments finish with the Melbourne Storm. He has worked intermittently with us over the last few years so has a good awareness of the setup. He comes from a rugby league background and we feel what he can offer as a coach, particularly with the forwards around the ruck, will help us with the way the game is going.”

Heineken Champions Cup Round 5 Results

Here are the results from the final round of the Heineken Champions Cup at the weekend, along with the Superbru predictability:

Lyon 24 – 36 Northampton 87%
Treviso 0 – 18 Leinster 99%
Ulster 22 – 15 Bath 98%
Harlequins 19 – 26 Clermont 92%
Sale 7 – 45 Glasgow 68%
Exeter 33 – 14 La Rochelle 98%
Munster 33 – 6 Opreys 99%
Saracens 27 – 24 Racing 56%
Toulouse 35 – 14 Gloucester 97%
Montpellier 35 – 29 Connacht 62%

These results mean that the quarter-final lineups are as follows:

Clermont v Racing
Toulouse v Ulster
Exeter v Northampton
Leinster v Saracens

A couple of tasty ties in there. What were the main talking points from the weekend?

22 thoughts on “A few things to catch up on

  1. There’s a question as to whether Sarries will be able to come straight back up, as the Salary Cap rules currently state that the promoted club must submit their salary documentation for the promotion season *and the season before that* to show compliance with the Premiership Cap (Page 37, section 15 in case you’re interested). It’s written that way to avoid a club gaining promotion by paying for a bunch of “Galaticos” to earn promotion but front-load their salary into the first year of their contracts, making them compliant only in years 2 & 3 of the player contracts.

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    1. Interesting but given that the relegation is a punishment for the breach i believe a line would be drawn under it and promotion would be possible otherwise Sarries would face double jeopardy for their crimes

  2. Well what an effing shit show this has all become.
    The only saving grace is that it has all happen at the beginning of a 4 year cycle so we have time to recover from it all before the next world cup.
    The cynic in me says that it’s by design seeing as its been going on for years the RFU have known about for ages and the timing of the original announcement was straight after the RWC final

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  3. Had a listen to Rugby Union Weekly pod and Brendon Venter did an interview. Obviously not an impartial opinion but he makes some very interesting points re how this has escalated from November.
    The report on this needs to be published ASAP, the Lord who investigated and wrote the report even said that it should be so now over to PR.

    1. If Sarries are to be relegated surely all their results should be struck from the record for this season. From now on in they have absolutely no incentive to win as they cannot affect their relegation. They thus have no incentive whatsoever to try terribly hard which may very well affect their results and thus the premiership table. Once again the RFU have shot themselves in the foot in their determination to destroy the most successful club in the country. It will also bite the Prem clubs in the arse as Saracens are onecofconlyva couplexof clubs guaranteed to fill grounds for away fixtures. There are a lot of average prem players who will also be looking over their shoulders at the end of the season wondering if they are going to get thrown at of work at the end of the season as a large group of well drilled players come on the open market. It was clearly impossible for Sarries to comply with the RFU demands within the time scale given to them, and if they were expected to divulge their accounts the same should apply to all of the clubs. There is a typically British element of cutting down the tallest poppy with relish about this whole sorry situation.

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      1. It isn’t the RFU remember, its Prem Rugby. But I agree with the overall sentiment of your comment that this has been handled appallingly. How are we 8 games into the season and only now learning that there will be no relegation for the other teams? Teams have already made decisions on whether to compete in Europe or battle for safety in the Prem and now they’re told that they no longer need to worry about relegation. Saracens can now also rest their best players and, barring the odd tuneup game, go all out at Leinster. What happens to all the fixtures v Saracens – do people just not have to pay as there is nothing at stake? PR need to answer a lot of questions and sharpish.
        There was also no chance in hell that Saracen’s would have been able to comply within a 1-2 month period, contracts don’t work that way. There is also no incentive for other clubs to take on players – whether they have ulterior motives or not – and I do think Saracen’s are being made an example of.
        I think the whole ‘publishing of accounts’ comment is a red herring, no private business would ever have to do this so why should Saracens. If PR were that serious then they would demand all clubs show their books prior to each season. A classic case of being reactionary rather the preventative.

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        1. You are of course right Jake. I also agree with the rest of your post. If Saracens have to publish their accounts for forensic examination I see no reason why the other clubs should not do the same. Will they? Will they hell! It can be argued that Saracens need to be made an example of, but to punish them twice because they have found it contractually impossible to conform to an unrealistic deadline has a large whiff of unenlightened self interest about it which I think many clubs will come to regret next season as gate receipts fall. It will be interesting to see if there is a move to ring fence immediately so that Sarries cant be promoted and are thus essentially destroyed.

      2. Poppycock you might state Andy? You & more than a few , including that influential & controversial’ hack, Jones boyo of the ST’s, disregard the Lance Armstrong factor. Cheating is cheating is cheating! Anything, everything else, is degraded by this immutable fact. If only Sarries hadn’t cheated in the 1st place, all this fallout, all this apologism, all this denial wouldn’t be, or have been necessary. Don’t you get it still? It’s not the 1st time is it? Sarries were let off the hook 5 yrs ago for the same offence FCOL! Wray subsequently lied about compliance . They’ve subsequently only admitted to & apologised for, ‘errors’! Bollocks! What errors? How is it that deliberate actions transmute into ‘errors’? They still haven ‘t come clean! If not, why don’t they open up their books? F****n guilt! That’s the only logical, rational explanation. Talk about can of worms, tip o’ the iceberg! You’ve got to cut the cancer out before apologists like you water down the fundamental issue of the game (not to mention England) being brought into disrepute, brought low by his abomination . Only after that can you regenerate & rehabilitate. The really innocent casualties are likely to be the Saracens’ ancillary staff. What about them? They are probably going to wall through no fault of their own. Maybe need to get yr head straight Andy.

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        1. We are clearly never going to agree on this one Don. If you seriously think there is any moral equivalence between someone who suborned an entire team, bribed doctors and officials, forced team mates to take drugs or leave, and who won his races by artificially improving his physical performance to the direct detriment of fellow athletes, and the subversion of a salary cap that only seven Premiership clubs voted for in the first place, and which in many areas of work would be regarded as a restraint of trade, then you are utterly misguided. If Saracens are expected to put their books up for examination then the rest of the Prem should too, but they won’t because a lot more worms would then begin to turn. The initial punishment was impossible to implement in the time scale PR required, as they knew it would be. They are now taking the opportunity to try and destroy a club that was in many ways a template of what a well run community based organisation should be, and it will not just be the ancillary staff who suffer, the entire community built up around the club will too, along with a whole raft of good, loyal players who have been with the club for many years. My head is fairly straight. Yours seems to be on some sort of half arsed moral crusade for vengeance.

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  4. On another subject, why are Quins not being investigated for playing so many under strength teams? They committed suicide in Ulster with a stupid penalty, but then put out a severely weakened team the following weekend and got stuffed, upon which they gave up in Europe and put out virtually a second team this weekend. Certainly they have injuries, but fans are getting short changed at present.

  5. Don’t understand this forgiveness stuff about Saracens & ring fencing? If ring fencing were to occur now, then Saracens wouldn’t get back into the Prem.. & they’d be ‘unforgiven’. Surely? Or have I missed a trick here?

    And how’s now a good time for finding a replacement for Billy Bones with his broken arm? He has a history, hasn’t he? What about Wilson, the ‘forgotten’ Man? England need a quick fix because dear old Ed had/has no real contingency plan. Ben Morgan? Well, has that boat realistically sailed? Rotation ignored? You bet. Besides, England rely & have relied, too much on BV. He suits the mould you see. But now? We’ll have to see.

    Yes, didn’t get Borthwick as skills coach either? Always liked him as a player. Salt of the earth, down to earth, lead by e.g., but thought that England dumped on him a bit before his time?

    As for Ryles? Dunno. Another RL’er. Mmm.

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    1. Dombrandt’s the answer to Billy Bones.
      He’s certainly worth a look after his man of the match award the other day.
      J.Woodward still the man for me at 15 and he’s a kiwi! He wouldn’t be too old come 2023 unless people are now saying and thinking that anything over 32 is some kind of grand-fatherly menopausal moment of crisis in the sporting world! I don’t believe it. Would a 22 yr old 15 necessarily be any better than a 32 year old…..not necessarily!

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  6. Far too much discussion on the sidelines. As a Saffer who spent 20 years living in Europe and following amateur rugby there while SA was banned. I think you fellows should either get involved in running the game or allow those doing their bit to do what they think is the best for rugby. I supported Saracens when they were an expat Saffer team, I still do and will still support them next year in the Pro 14. Guys let it be.

    1. What? Have they applied to join the Pro 14? That is going to put a few more noses out of joint, but I suspect you may be on a wind up Phil.

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