Rugby Union: Move to limit squads: Courage clubs face restrictions

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THE Senior Clubs' Association, which as Bath know wields sufficient power in English rugby to deduct league points, yesterday launched an attack on outsize club squads by proposing that Courage Championship registration be restricted to 40 players each.

The SCA constitutes the 40 clubs making up the top four divisions, who are being asked to agree changes drawn up by Alwynne Evans of Moseley, the SCA secretary, and recommended by the SCA executive, which will hold a special meeting on 17 February. The present senior clubs' average is 100 registered players, with one said to have 175. 'We know that this cannot be in the best interests of the game,' Neil Hannah, of the SCA executive, said yesterday.

Evans also proposes freedom of movement below squad level, especially for under-21s, so that any unregistered player would not be made to wait for 120 days to qualify for a new club in accordance with Rugby Football Union regulations. 'Regrettably, in the national leagues the better clubs are registering far more players than they require to meet their league commitments,' Evans said.

A number of the big clubs have representatives on the executive: Bath, Bristol and Orrell, and Bob Taylor of Northampton, a former England No 8, is vice-chairman. These are the sort of clubs who stand to lose most from proposals designed to spread more widely the talented players in the English game.

'Any club wishing to add a player would be able to do so only by deregistering another,' Evans said. 'No club would be able to retain players at the expense of another club unless that player was good enough to have a place in their registered squad of 40 players.

'In the case of longer-term injuries, the system would allow an injured player to be deregistered, thus permitting the registration of another player. To prevent abuse, it would have to be understood that no deregistered player could return in less than six weeks.