Thursday’s Rugby News has the incoming ARU cuts, O’ Connor’s departure, the Heineken Cup possibly losing the Welsh and recreational drug use in English rugby.
ARU confirm cuts to player payments
As expected, the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) will include a cut in player payments from $13,000 to $10,000 per Test. The new CBA will operate from 2014 to 2017 and, in the face of the financial pressure of this year’s $8.3 million deficit, will save the ARU 12 per cent of its player costs. ‘The players have made significant concessions in this deal to ensure that rugby will be a stronger game for those who follow in their footsteps,’ RUPA chief executive Greg Harris said.
The CBA also included changes to Super Rugby payments. This includes the introduction of a $5 million salary cap for the franchises, a 15 per cent increase in minimum salaries over the length of the agreement, and an increase in the players’ share in gross revenue from 26 to 29 per cent.
O’Connor heading overseas
James O’Connor has confirmed that he will play next season abroad, but remains hopeful of returning to the Western Force in time to be eligible for the 2015 World Cup. His decision comes after the ARU terminated his contract and suspended him from all upcoming international fixtures after another off-field issue at Perth airport was unearthed.
‘I believe the move, for a few months, will be beneficial for me to develop in a different environment and help me be the best rugby player and person that I can be,’ JOC said. With several English contenders, London Irish are said to be the favourites to sign the troubled playmaker on a short-term deal. O’Connor would need to return for a full Super Rugby season to be eligible for World Cup inclusion.
Welsh leave Heineken Cup
Four Welsh regional teams have announced their ‘full support’ for the new Anglo-French renegade competition. The Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets have publicly backed any moves towards ‘equality of governance, format, qualification and distribution.’ They also said that they will continue to work with the Welsh Rugby Union to bring the Rugby Champions Cup to fruition, further damaging the state of the Heineken Cup.
The insecurity of the current European competition has already had a massive effect, with Irish and Welsh players continuing to jump ship and compete in French rugby. Without the profile of the Heineken Cup and the uncertain profitability of the new competition, former Irish lock Alan Quinlan writes that the earning ability offered by the French has become more influential in decision-making.
Positive drug tests in English rugby
The Rugby Fototball Union has announced that five players tested positive for recreational drugs during the 2012-2013 season. These five cases are the first violations of the illicit drugs program introduced in 2009, which tests for cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and amphetamines. The players’ names will remain confidential as they were first offenders, resulting in fines of £5,000 ($A8407). While disappointed in the results, the RFU is taking solace in the fact that the violations were all recorded at National League level and below.
Meanwhile, Argentina has named Daniel Hourcade as national coach for the Pumas’ upcoming European tour, with a view to have him continue towards the 2015 World Cup. Former coach Santiago Phelan has also opened up about his decision to quit, citing the lack of control he felt as the behaviour of certain squad members conflicted with the values he was trying to instil.