Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rugby Union-Exodus of top players from Southern hemisphere

In Ireland at present most of the attention is on the build up to the World Cup. Supporters are concerned at the drop in form of some key Irish players.

However in the aftermath of the World Cup the exodus of key New Zealand, South African and Australian Rugby Union players to British and French clubs will have a major impact especially on Heineken Cup matches.

Traditionally Southern Hemisphere players moving north were in their twilight years. The NZRU and the South African Rugby Union cannot match the money on offer at English and French clubs so younger players are heading north. Some of the key NZ players moving north include Leicester-bound Aaron Mauger who is only 26, Newcastle recruit Carl Hayman is 27, Saracens signing Chris Jack is 28 and even Agen-bound Byron Kelleher is only 30. Sam Tuitupou is joining Worcester, while 27-year-old prop Clarke Dermody (three caps) is joining London Irish. Paul Tito is joining Bristol. All Blacks back Luke McAlister has signed a two-year- contract with English Premiership club Sale. Springboks including lock Victor Matfield and hooker Gary Botha, and other players including props Danie Thiart, Ruan Vermeulen and Wessel Roux and centre Frikkie Welsh are also moving overseas.

How can Munster, Leinster and Ulster hope to compete against the financial might of the large British and French clubs? This has grave implications for the prospects of the Irish sides in the European Cup. So far there has been little comment in Ireland on these signings.

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