Champions Cup semi-final 2022: Why low pay range and no relegation help explain English rugby’s non-attendance

Champions Cup semi-final 2022: Why low pay range and no relegation help explain English rugby's non-attendance

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There is a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth with the absence of English clubs from this weekend’s European Champions Cup semi-finals, but what does that mean and could it get worse?

It is the sixth season and the second in a row that England have drawn such a gap – four more than France and equal to Ireland, although well ahead of Scotland, Wales and Italy. Is something systematically wrong or are these temporary glitches?

In 25 seasons in which there was no boycott and all major nations competed in the Champions Cup, French clubs have seen only two semi-final eliminations, in 2007 and 2009.

England and Ireland have missed six times each; English for 2003, 2010, 2012, 2018, 2021 and this season and Irish for 1997, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2016 and 2020.

In contrast, Scotland have reached the semi-finals only once – Edinburgh in 2012 – and Wales have had five and Italy has none. The most common formation in the last four were the teams of England, France and Ireland on 11 occasions.

One factor in the strength of any individual club, region or province is salary expenses. France has generally been more consistent than England, where the basic salary cap has steadily risen to £6.4m, but has now been reduced to £5m.

Narrated by Alex Goode, a serial winner of the Saracens I Until recently, success in Europe has been about the quality of the top spot on match day 23, not the depth of the team, and the ability to shine from the bench has often been a dividing line between winners and followers. The Saracens themselves learned of this when Toulon was knocked out in Cardiff in 2014.

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Almost immediately after the start of the Champions Cup (initially without English) in 1995, the Irish found that putting resources into Leinster and Münster was a winning formula loved by their fans. The French had more of a love-hate relationship, producing record five-time winners at Toulouse and the international star-studded Toulon side, while other clubs contemptuously stocked up to focus on the domestic top 14. Posted.

In England, national team head coach Eddie Jones said privately early in his tenure that talent was poorly distributed among Premiership clubs. Saracens rallied a string of England internationals and strong recruits to conquer Europe in 2016, 2017 and 2019, but was found guilty of breaching domestic salary limits.

Finn Russell, the highly paid Scottish fly-half in Racing 92 who takes on La Rochelle in a nominal all-French semi-final this weekend, says the fight for relegation in France is raising the standards.

In last week’s quarter-finals, Racing Cell slammed the Sharks, whose rugby director Alex Sanderson joined Leicester’s Steve Borthwick, who had been beaten at home by Leinster, with the promise that “coaching and reconciliation” will be there for the coming season. Will fill in the gap in the strength of the squad. , we will see.

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