David Flatman: Simple solution to club v country row

From the Front Row: Six Nations over five weeks and salary cap increase so clubs can handle three-game weeks – this will end player-release anger

I wonder if English rugby will ever quite manage to get the relationship right between its clubs and its national team. It's a funny old relationship and one, I suspect, that wouldn't score too highly if referred to a counsellor. I'm not sure who exactly would share the leather chaise longue, but I am pretty confident that the expert would press home the power of compromise.

Of course, there is the débâcle surrounding the biannual selection of an England squad and the loopholes that have to be negotiated in order to get an unselected but in-form player on to the field, but we know all about this already. Fabio Capello does not have this problem; he just picks the players he wants every time. You might argue that it hasn't done him much good, but we can't blame the system.

One symptom of this supposedly amiable accord that does always seem rather counter-productive is England players missing club matches. England are happy with this arrangement as they get their men, the players are happy as they get to play for their country. But the clubs go intobig matches without, in theory,their best players. This is odd, don't you think?

Two weeks ago, we played against a Northampton team shorn of Dylan Hartley, Chris Ashton, Tom Wood and Ben Foden. Courtney Lawes was injured but, had he been fit, would also have been busy wearing white. We were without England centre Shontayne Hape. Despite this, the fans paid full price and the same number of points were at stake. The pounds and points aren't really the issue, but they form important parts of the bigger picture.

Then, last week, we took on an Exeter team missing, well, no internationals. We again were without Hape, but this time Matt Banahan was busy, too. Fortunately we managed to win but one couldn't help smiling while reading the Exeter teamsheet which, bar the odd injury and form-related selection, was no different to the one printed out all season.

So how does this make the players feel? Well, in truth, once you get out there it isn't something you think about. Usually the bloke stood six inches away trying to take your head off serves as sufficient distraction. Admittedly, we have a good squad at Bath and enough depth to cope so you might say we have it easy.

Jim Mallinder and Dorian West might feel differently, however. We all know that Northampton have a fantastic squad of players as well but surely no team could lose two of the best back-three players in the world without anyone noticing. So, due to their excellent form in recent seasons, their squad is temporarily weakened.

This raises a crazy question: is it worth signing current internationals? Well, yes it is. Naturally, the likes of Lewis Moody just won't be available for as many games as other players at the club but he is an England international for a reason. Evidently when he plays, his drive and commitment are unrivalled, whatever the opposition, and the same goes in training. But this isn't the only benefit.

He, along with the other internationals, add to the mix a heightened level of experience and composure; they infuse those around them with a feeling of security and a sense that, whatever situation we might be in, they've been there and handled it before. And this – in a game where it's not only the measurables that count (see the NFL) – is priceless.

So, were I a director of rugby, I would still recruit England players. I would concede that, as is right and proper, national selection takes precedence at all times and I wouldn't complain. I might, however, push for a few tweaks to the system. The notion of the Aviva Premiership halting completely while the Six Nations takes place seems reasonable enough at first glance, but do you think Exeter's representative would be keen? I doubt it. This "blocking out" would also mean a longer season as all league matches were pushed back and, well, the players would surely revolt at this.

My solution would be simple; play your Six Nations in five weeks, give us club players a nice little break and increase the salary cap to allow squads to cope with the demands of the resulting handful of three-game weeks. See, easy. Now all I have to do is get someone from the RFU to agree to meet my therapist. Look into my eyes...

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk