The Saracens chairman, Nigel Wray, wants the rugby calendar to be changed so that the clubs and England play at different times. He described the current system, whereby Premiership sides lose their international players for three months every season, an “absolute nonsense”.
“Professional rugby dawned 20 years ago and we still behave as if the game is amateur,” said Wray in his programme notes. “While it was a matter of pride to sit in Paris last Saturday and watch Saracens guys deservedly claim most of the awards, we are still left with the absolute nonsense that the Premiership clubs are giving their players to England to compete with them on the same day.
“This was fine in the amateur days when it did not matter, but now our supporters don’t get to see some of the best players in the land for probably one-third to one-half of the season. The southern hemisphere has worked it out so that their Super Rugby season does not compete with international series.
“To make matters worse, the best referees are employed for the international game, which means the Premiership again gets passed off as a second-class citizen. I have said many times that Premier Rugby has to employ the referees direct and not get them shipped in by the Rugby Football Union.
“It is absolutely essential that we organise our season so that the Premiership is not seen as some second-rate product to the Six Nations, but we play at different times and support, rather than compete with, each other. Imagine saying to Arsenal and Chelsea you have to play the next 10 games without eight top players.
“We should change the system right now because this rank stupidity has gone on for long enough. We need to work together, not against each other, but the drive has to come from the Premiership clubs, the ones being wounded, the ones seeing their product downgraded. The RFU won’t take the lead because it does not really care and it has everything it wants.”