Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has hit back at criticism from Steve Hansen.
Before New Zealand played France in the Millennium Stadium, All Blacks boss Steve Hansen, criticised the French Top 14 for importing far too many foreign players and robbing ‘the French national team of its traditional flair’. Hansen’s view was supported by World Cup winning coach Graham Henry, who branded the Top 14 as ‘ridiculous’ and regretted the fact that so many All Blacks had signed for French clubs.
However, while neither Hansen or Henry mentioned the Aviva Premiership, Mark McCafferty has jumped to the defence of England’s premier competition. McCafferty was quick to argue that England’s domestic game has not had a negative influence on the national team.
The New Zealand Herald quoted McCafferty as saying,
As far as England is concerned – I’m not worried about what Steve Hansen said about France – there are 75% of players playing each weekend who are English qualifying.
That’s gone up and it gives a pool of players to every English coach which is pretty unrivalled around the world. We’ve just got to find the clues and things to unlock the elite level of performance within that…
So despite Steve Hansen’s comments, I think those were a bit misjudged . I think it is just more about the top end, how you translate all of that structure and scale that we have in England into elite outcomes.
McCafferty went further, distancing club owners from England’s failure to emerge from their World Cup pool.
They’ve got private investment in New Zealand so I’m not sure that’s the conclusion you can draw… I’ve always been very clear in my views, I understand the history of why certain countries and certain unions are in a particular place but, if you look at the expansion of the sport, I think the case is pretty clear that you need to attract investment.
While many Kiwis were left scratching their heads at McCafferty’s comments, they should be seen within the context of the upcoming review of England’s World Cup campaign.
The review has the potential to reopen pre-existing tension between the RFU and Premiership rugby, particularly as clubs are looking to increase the Premiership’s salary cap to attract marquee players.