Club talk

Closer links with Wasps…but Premierhip plans to stop loaning out young talent?

wasps-logoSo it seems that it’s not just Coventry supporters who want to see Cov back into the Championship then…?

Dai Young, Wasps’ Director of Rugby, has made it clear that he wants to further strengthen the links between the two clubs and would welcome Cov’s promotion back into rugby’s second tier.

Very neighbourly, of course….but perhaps not quite as altruistic as it might first appear.

Wasps need Coventry as much, perhaps more even, than we need them, something that is implicit in Dai’s comments in an CET article a couple of weeks ago.

Wasps’ Dai Young: “We want to help Coventry Rugby return to the Championship” – CT 17 May 2017

To be fair to Dai,  he made it clear that having a Championship club on Wasps’ doorstep ‘would be absolutely brilliant’, presumably because it’s somewhere for their Academy players to gain further experience and would be the next step up for the likes of such talented youngsters as Willis, Howe and James.

Closer links between the two clubs must clearly be of a symbiotic nature though, with both clubs benefitting, and that was certainly the case last season when the presence of all three Wasps’ academy players came at a crucial point in our season. Cov had lost 4 of its opening 6 games and faced Fylde at home.

Another loss would have heaped further pressure on the new squad.

As it was, in came Jack Willis, Tome Howe and Owain James and they all made memorable contributions.

Cov won at a canter and we only lost five more games out of the remaining 23.

Right place, right time and definitely the right result.

We actually saw fairly little of the Wasps contingent over the course of the season, with Willis making just 4 starts and James 9, with Tome Howe playing 11 (although it seemed more), but their contributions were hugely important and they scored 23 tries between them, with one or two proving decisive in determining the outcome of one or two close games.

I’ve always been of the opinion that now Wasps are in the city, we ought to be using their proximity to our advantage.

Dai Young’s recent comments, therefore, don’t concern me greatly…we should be looking to make as much use of Wasps’ resources as possible, provided it remains in our best interests so to do.

My only slight worry surrounds Coventry’s expansion of their own development squad and Young’s reaction to it…

…if Coventry are bringing young kids through, of course they’d like them to play for Coventry. But in time, if they feel there’s more to them and they can become future internationals, then hopefully they’d want to come to Wasps – so you want it to move both ways…

Those Cov supporters with longer memories will know that we’ve seen before what happens when we produce a crop of exciting young players.

There’s just a veiled suggestion within that quote of a potential scenario if we unearth one or two very talented youngsters of our own once again. However, the set up is very different now and I’m sure Coventry will do everything it can to safeguard its own assets whilst also providing youngsters with every opportunity to achieve their potential, wherever that might lie.

However, that’s for the future and at the moment it might well be that Wasps can recommend a number of academy-aged players who haven’t quite got what is needed to ensure a place in Wasps’ own academy but who might well be ideal candidates for Coventry’s development squad. Wasps’ involvement could help us to target the best youngsters outside of those already at the Premiership club and that would be no bad thing.

Young is honest enough to admit that should Coventry get promoted, ‘Wasps will benefit’ and that:

If Coventry get promoted it would be absolutely great to have a Championship side on our doorstep…so if we can help them get to the Championship then that’s what we’d like to do.

Sounds good to me…

As I said earlier, not completely altruistic – but totally up front and honest and that’s the way it should be.

What does interest me a little is that other than the loaning of players, there’s no mention of how else the two clubs are working together. With such fantastic resources at Wasps’ disposal, surely there would be opportunities for Cov to benefit from areas of Wasps’  expertise other than playing opportunities…?

Training, coaching, physio/rehab etc, perhaps? Maybe that is still to come…

Young makes the point in the CT article that:

I’ve always said that we aren’t coming down to kill rugby in this area, we’ve come down to merge ourselves in the area and (sic) trying to better it…

Partnerships rather than mergers might be better, but the sentiment is the right one and if Coventry continue to benefit in the way they did last season, let’s have more of the same, please…

However, it appears that Dai Young’s willingness to support Coventry even further this season could already be scuppered with the latest plans now announced by the PRL

It wants to increase the number of A league fixtures from 5 to 10 during the season, following the  rejection of Nigel Melville’s (RFU Director of Rugby) ‘buddy up’ system between Premiership and Championship clubs, and going directly against the RFU’s own proposal to increase the number of dual reg. players in the Championship from 6 to 10. The PRL is proposing A league teams play each other home and away in the two regionalised conferences.

There are, apparently, 265 English qualified players between the ages of 18-24 at Premiership clubs and Nigel Melville is becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of playing opportunities currently being afforded them.

It now seems that Championship clubs are being told that they will have:

‘little or no access’ to academy players next season…

This is pure speculation on my part, but presumably this will also apply to National One as well and clubs in our league that have relied in the past on the use of d/r Premiership academy players to supplement their own squads might not be able to do so any longer.

I can’t see there being any real difference between the situation in tiers two and three.

To quote an RFU spokesman:

It has always been the view that the movement of academy players would enhance the development of those players and their playing programmes and offers clubs the opportunity to take those players on loan to strengthen their own squads

This will no longer be able to happen. According to a Premiership spokesman:

Premiership rugby clubs invest millions of pounds each year in their academies and that commitment has allowed our clubs to feed a conveyor belt of young English talent and keep the level of English qualified players in the Premiership to 70% …

…we have a large group of talented players who need the appropriate amount of game time. This change to the A league structure will help accelerate their development under the guidance of their club coaches

RFU fury at Premiership plan to stop loaning out young talents

So it might well do, but such plans will come at a significant cost to Championship clubs and presumably some from National One as well. For clubs in the Championship, it is estimated that the lack of loan players will cost something in the region of £100,000 each, not to mention the costs incurred by the Premiership sides as a result of the expanded A league.

Now I really enjoyed watching the likes of Tom Howe in a Cov shirt last season and certainly wouldn’t be against further Wasps/Leicester/Northampton youngsters appearing for Cov this coming season, provided of course that they are there on merit and are the best available players in their position on the day.

That said, were there to be a reduction in the number of dual reg players from the premiership appearing in National One next season, I happen to think  it could work very much to Coventry’s advantage.

Last season the squad was something of an unknown. By Christmas we knew that there was realistically probably only a squad of 22-24 from which to select, including the d/rs.

The 20 players that Rowland Winter has retained for this season have all proven themselves at this level and 8 of the 10 players coming in are all highly experienced, many at representative level.

We will be far better placed in terms of the depth and strength of the squad come September and provided we don’t succumb to too many injuries, especially in one or two positions, we should have the players already here to come into the team without having to rely on Premiership academy players if necessary.

In this respect, we have an advantage over most other National One sides, so if the stream of academy players being made available to Championship and National One clubs does dry up, well we shouldn’t suffer unduly, indeed it might actually work in our favour.

National One sides with smaller budgets and less playing resources might well struggle and it has been suggested that many clubs outside of the Premiership might now have to make greater use of links with local feeder teams, especially from universities close by.

Anyone who watched Willis, Howe, James and, of course, Leicester’s Freddie Tuilagi, will surely have enjoyed witnessing the beginnings of what will hopefully be extremely successful careers in rugby for all four players  – perhaps we were even lucky enough to see a future international in the making. However, despite welcoming the input of Wasps (and other Premiership clubs), if I had the choice I’d rather be promoted purely on the efforts of the current squad alone, rather than with the addition of a number of premiership d/rs.

That said, if it was a case of finishing first with them and second without…well, I’m more than happy to sacrifice any of the few principles I might have for the sake of Championship rugby.

Certainly, I can see Cov better placed to cope with an absence of d/r players than many teams in the league, but it remains to be seen just how Melville’s latest proposals will actually affect clubs in the Championship and below.

 

 

 

 

 

1 reply »

  1. Interesting points raised in your thought provoking article Tim, if the premiership ambitions come to fruition the harm it may bring on a number of clubs, both in the Championship and Division 1 is immense. Beginning to see a case of the tail wagging the dog with Premier League Clubs and the RFU. In the case of the RFU you reap what you have sown.

    Like

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