RFU cost-cutting threatens to wreck County rugby

Photo: Sam Matavesi in action for Cornwall in 2016 Bill Beaumont Cup Final

Trelawny’s Army are indebted to Neale Harvey for allowing us to re-print his article that appeared in Sunday’s The Rugby Paper and which concerns us all.

EXCLUSIVE By NEALE HARVEY

Lancashire head coach Mark Nelson has slammed cost-cutting proposals that could see the England Counties team and the County Championship axed.

The Rugby Paper understands elements within the RFU hierarchy view county rugby as an unnecessary financial burden and that behind-closed-doors talks aimed at slashing the Union’s commitment to it have been taking place for months.

England Counties take on their Scottish counterparts at Moseley this Friday and while this summer’s proposed tour to Portugal and Spain is expected to go ahead, the scheduling of future tours and matches during the Six Nations remain shrouded in doubt.

With the long-term future of the historic County Championship also being debated, Nelson told The Rugby Paper: “Elements within the RFU would happily see County rugby go but in my view it’s a fundamental part of rugby below the professional game.

“County rugby is a different competition; it’s the only representative chance the majority of club players ever get. It gives those players an opportunity to represent their Counties at Twickenham and then to tour with the Counties’ national team.

 

Photo: Ben Hilton & Aaron Penberthy, just two of the many Cornish players to have represented England Counties

“It’s a massively important part of the English game and people who seek to undermine that or bring about its demise are being massively detrimental to the game. I know discussions are taking place but I don’t understand the arguments against it.”

Nelson fears money used to fund County rugby will be diverted into leagues.

He added: “Clubs are looking for more funding to go around the Championship, National One and National Two, so they’re looking to cull other areas of the game to service those needs, with the County Championship potentially a victim.

“But where do they see the game going? Do they see it just becoming about league rugby with no cups, no variety and a ceiling at the top of National One?

“County rugby is aspirational and on the 2004 tour to Canada we had Ben Foden, Shaun Perry, David Strettle and Matt Jess in our team, but if you do away with it you will be condemning potential top players like them to a diet of league rugby.”

 

 

 

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