Peter Bills: Selfish RFU can't have it all their own way

Is not the hysterical reaction of the Rugby Football Union to the news that three England players had signed for French clubs typical of a selfish organisation?

In a sense, it showed English rugby’s naivety. The French have seen some of their international players, the likes of Raphael Ibanez, Sebastien Chabal and Olivier Azam, plus former Biarritz scrum half Julien Dupuy, going to England to play their rugby. In a professional era, what is surprising about that ? Players will go where the best deals are and be tempted by living and playing in another country.

In soccer, David Beckham has played in Madrid, Los Angeles and most recently Milan whilst continuing to represent England. Years and years ago, the likes of Kevin Keegan, Mark Hughes, Gary Lineker and Laurie Cunningham all played their club football on the Continent whilst still playing for their countries.

I detect a note of arrogance in English rugby’s reaction to the London Wasps players, Riki Flutey, Tom Palmer and James Haskell announcing they have signed for French clubs for next season. Flutey will go to Brive, Palmer and Haskell to Stade Francais.

But suddenly, the RFU sense a crisis. Urgent talks are called. This, say official spokesmen, is a serious threat to England and to the Guinness Premiership.

But where were England when Italy lost about ten of their best players to clubs in France and, er, England? No one at Twickenham complained then because it didn’t affect them: Italian rugby could go hang. They weren’t bothered about anyone else.

But the moment the boot is on the other foot, they RFU starts crying foul. Isn’t it typical of these narrow-minded people? All they’re interested in is their own little world.

So what if the Guinness Premiership isn’t in the future the best club league in the world ? I’m not even convinced it is now. French rugby didn’t bleat when it lost players like Sebastian Bruno, Serge Betsen and, before them, Philippe Sella, Abdel Benazzi, Olivier Brouzet, Laurent Cabannes, Christian Califano, Thomas Castaignede, Thierry Lacroix, Thomas Lombard, Olivier Magne, Alain Penaud and Philippe Saint-Andre, to English clubs. Last year, Frederic Michalak played for The Sharks in Durban in the Super 14.

The French don’t whinge; they just get on with it.

And there’s another thing too. Isn’t it the case that it can be the making of young men to leave their comfort zone and go and work abroad? Ask Thomas Castaignede what he got out of his years with English club Saracens, in terms of a lifestyle experience. I always remember Michael Lynagh and Philippe Sella speaking so glowingly about their time together at Saracens.

Won’t Riki Flutey learn much from a new life in the south of France at Brive? Won’t Palmer and Haskell mature in Paris with the cosmopolitan Stade Francais club, especially under an Australian coach? All three will have to learn French - isn’t all that going to improve them as individuals and men?

But of course the RFU isn’t interested in any of that. For their own selfish reasons, they want all the top English players always to stay at home and then they want to see the best players from all around the world join clubs in the Guinness Premiership. In other words, all a one-way street and the hell with everyone else…….

My view is, the RFU and the English players’ organisation should wise up. Come out of your own cosy little cupboard, guys, and open your eyes. There’s a big new world called professionalism out there which means player movement, both ways, is inevitable.

You don’t cry when top world players like New Zealanders Nick Evans, Greg Somerville, Chris Jack and Aaron Mauger join English clubs. The fact that they’ve helped swell attendances at English club games is quietly welcomed. But of course, that’s different...

The fact is, they should stop bleating when some of their players decide to go and try life in another country.

In other words, you can’t have things all your own way, no matter how much you might think you can.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little