Oval Talk

The right man, the wrong way

Oval Talk

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It's easy to criticise the RFU, but the powers that be in English rugby often make it so simple.

Less than two months ago the RFU and Saracens were locked in negotiations — which eventually lasted a fortnight — over Andy Farrell's future, and his possible release from his contract at the Premiership club to take up a role at HQ.

Reasons were given, and speculated upon, for the eventual collapse in talks as Farrell opted to remain at Vicarage Road and continue what was an admirable task. More likely, and with no disrespect to Farrell, was that Saracens played hard, the RFU failed to flex, and everyone was left dissatisfied and with an outcome exactly like the one we now have being an almost inevitable conclusion.

The RFU could have just given Saracens a fair compensation payout, or they could have struck an extension of the previous agreement during the Six Nations, or they could have reached any number of other arrangements in which all concerned parties were able to have their cake and eat it. In the end it would seem that the RFU, tasked with maintaining the interests of the game, failed to put its hands in it pockets and just pay up.

So Farrell took matters into his own hands by resigning. If Saracens hold him to his six-month notice period he will miss the autumn internationals as well as the summer tour to South Africa.

Now we have a situation where the club will be feeling mightily aggrieved at the nature of Farrell's departure, with his expected appointment to the England ranks on a full-time basis imminent. They also have to restructure their coaching set-up during the summer as they search for a suitable replacement for the man who they viewed as being an integral part of their future. No easy task.

Some will say Saracens need to move on quickly, and that this is all for the best for England in the long term. That is true. In the short term however — and the longer for Saracens — it is ultimately damaging to a project they have been successfully building.

There can be little doubting that Farrell is the right man to help Stuart Lancaster take England forward, but when that progress comes at the expense of one of the union's constituent clubs does the end really justify the means?

More help is needed from the governing body in a situation such as this, because while they cannot be directly blamed for Farrell's own decision to step down from his position at Saracens, they surely have an obligation and a duty to ensure that the benefit gained by the national team is not to the detriment of any club.

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