Rugby Union

Are Clermont's greedy Galacticos right to abandon their countries?

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On May 2 2015 at Twickenham, Toulon overcame Clermont 24-18 to lift the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Despite both teams being French not even 50 per cent of the players starting the game were from France; the field was littered with talent from all around the globe.

Such is the power of French rugby nowadays, and such is the wealth of the owners of French clubs, that not only powerhouses like Toulon and Clermont but also second division sides can attract players of proven international caliber to their ranks.

Players who decide to foray into the French Top 14 often find themselves alienated from their respective international set-ups, where the coaches are only authorised to select home-based players.

The question, therefore, arises for these players: do I represent my country or do I earn a substantial amount of money plying my trade in France?

One need only look at the line-up of European champions Toulon on that fateful day at Twickenham in order to observe what a detrimental effect this 'cash or country' debate is having on the game.

Greedy Galacticos

The Toulon side resembles that of the former Real Madrid Galacticos of the 2000's; the teamsheet plays host to world stars Carl Hayman, Bakkies Botha, Ali Williams, Juan Smith, Chris Masoe, Matt Giteau, Bryan Habana and Drew Mitchell - all players who have won numerous caps for their countries, but appear to have decided that a big payday is of more importance than adding to those caps.

Every single one of the aforementioned players knew that by joining Toulon they could no longer represent their beloved countries.

At grassroots level, young players learn the game with dreams of one day representing their country, which begs the question: when did money become more important than patriotism and national pride?

For many fans, the players jumping ship to France are governed by gluttony and greed; players are money-driven, selfish individuals. However, it is very rare that we look at the debate from the other side - the side of those who have chosen to follow their wallets.

Financial security

The pure physical stature of some of the athletes playing rugby today is frightening; the raw power and size of players has greatly increased over the past few decades.

With this comes the need for players to put their bodies through rigorous gym routines on a daily basis, coupled with training sessions and then the high-intensity, attritional battle that commences upon the first whistle come game day.

Players are putting their bodies through far more than those who came before them, players are making rugby their 'whole lives'. 

This being said, the career of a rugby player is not as long as that of an office worker or a hedge-fund manager, and while the best professional players may well be paid handsomely, they will only be paid on average until they are approximately 35 years old - the body clock will run out and retirement will beckon.

Furthermore, rugby is a career that could be gone in an instant; gone with one unlucky injury, one unlucky moment. So, who are we to judge those who go in search of financial security within their chosen career field, would we not do the same?

Rugby is an attritional, physically exhausting, altogether dangerous sport and whilst the allure of playing for your country is strong for players, the allure of financial security after is sometimes stronger. 

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Rugby Union
Clermont Auvergne

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