England defence coach John Mitchell says there could be a few positives to come out of this coronavirus pandemic for rugby if it creates greater professionalism worldwide.
National and provincial unions, franchises and clubs across the globe have suffered huge financial losses since the virus broke out, sparking concerns that the game’s current structures won’t survive the outbreak fully intact.
Addressing the media via conference call, Mitchell indicated rugby could gain a lot by concentrating of talent at fewer clubs worldwide.
Using Vodacom Super Rugby as his primary example, Mitchell explained greater contraction was required if the tournament was to return to its glory days like it was in mid 1990s and early 2000s.
‘I’d like to probably see less markets. The example I give you is Super Rugby. When it first started it was 12 teams, I think I even played in the first Super 10 but it was probably at its best when it was 12 teams and the best players were playing,’ Mitchell said.
‘They obviously wanted to create a style of rugby that suited the southern hemisphere from an athletic point of view. Ultimately, because they’ve spread that all round the world, it’s in some ways spread players all round the world, creating greater costs.
‘It’s probably lost its value in some ways because people want to watch the best players playing in their competition.’
While having sympathy for emerging nations, Mitchell added that there were still too many clubs where players could earn a salary.
‘Japan has expanded, the second division in France has also. There’s a number of markets where players can derive an income and the thing is that ultimately there are so many players that can call themselves ‘professional’ I guess in position and title, but not necessarily in action.’
‘Clearly, the players will probably still be the critical (thing), the biggest value but I’m sure it’s going to contract a lot more which in the end is going to create greater professionalism and more competition for places, which is healthy for the game as well.’
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