Is English club rugby facing an exodus of players abroad?

Is English club rugby facing an exodus of players abroad?

Losing one of those players would seem more symbolic than, say, Jamie George, who turns 32 on October 20, landing a juicy deal with a Top 14 side. Asked about Simmonds’ impending departure from Exeter, Mark McCall said hoped it wouldn’t be the start of a trend.

“I kind of understand that someone who’s in their early thirties does [going abroad] after they’ve had their international careers and they want to experience something different,” McCall said.

“To start losing the best young talent in the Premiership, someone like Sam, is a worry.”

Perilous situations at Wasps and Worcester Warriors, while those clubs may be outliers rather than dominoes, are unlikely to stop players who sit on the fence.

France and Japan would be the obvious destinations for Premiership leavers, but the United Rugby Championship cannot be ignored. Bristol Bears’ Joe Joyce will travel to Connacht at the end of this season and World Rugby’s eligibility changes make someone like Dan Kelly, the Leicester center who won just one England cap against Canada in July 2021, an attractive target for Irish provinces.

Talent redistribution in the league

Now let’s step back and offer another perspective. If the reduction in the salary cap results in a redistribution of talent in the league, that’s not a bad thing. England would surely benefit from Max Malins leaving Bristol play more regularly at fullback. George Ford, Jonny Hill and Tom O’Flaherty being at Sale Sharks makes the Premiership more intriguing.

When the cap goes up at the end of next season, it will be necessary to send the message that paying up to the cap is not compulsory. Obviously, the clubs have to be responsible. Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor implored them to be more open with finances. It would be useful, sure.

The rules of other leagues represent another obstacle to a significant exodus. There are a limited number of places for foreigners in the Top 14 and for Japan’s domestic competitions. The World Cup argument could also be reversed, as a new round could spell a new dawn for underdogs with Jones moving on.

Simmonds would be a prime candidate here, but a player like Alex Lozowski could also enjoy a renaissance. The selection is subjective and being peripheral under a boss does not prevent you from being the pivot of his successor. Look at James Haskell between the Stuart Lancaster and Jones eras. Why not stick around and see if 2024-2027 will be a brighter four years?

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