Danny Care has thrown his weight behind the proposed “hybrid” contracts for England stars if it ensures the best players in the country do not move abroad.
The Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby are believed to have reached an agreement which would see 20 England players given a form of central contract, allowing Steve Borthwick considerably more control over his frontline squad members.
The agreement is to form part of the new Professional Game Agreement and is said to be worth £32m a year to the 10 Premiership clubs. Given the financial upheaval in the Premiership, making the move abroad has become an increasingly attractive proposition for players with four members of England’s World Cup squad – Henry Arundell, Jack Willis, Joe Marchant and David Ribbans – having already signed for clubs in France. Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola have also been linked with moves overseas.
Though an exception was made for Willis, and is expected to be made for Arundell during the Six Nations next year because their previous clubs went bust, the current RFU policy is that players based outside of England are not eligible for selection. Care, however, hopes the “hybrid” deals would help keep England players in the Premiership.
“We want to see English players playing in England, I’m definitely right in saying that,” he said. “England need to have their best players in England and if there are ways that we can do it, which might help the club game and help the clubs be more sustainable, then I think the players would be on board with that. Hopefully they can sort that.
“With the club game going down to 10 teams, it automatically is going to be [fewer] games for the lads. I have always pushed and been an advocate for Premiership games not to be played during the Six Nations window. I think fans, clubs and everyone wants that.
“You want your best players playing and clubs want to have their best players available which helps everything in terms of TV revenue and fans coming to the stadium, who want to see Owen Farrell playing for Saracens as many times as he can. If there’s ways and structures around to do that then I am all for it.”
The hybrid contracts would not allow Borthwick to dictate exactly how many matches the selected 20 players appear in, or when they do so, but it would lead to greater collaboration between club and country. Insiders have also pointed to Borthwick’s remarks that England players were not fit enough when they arrived into camp for the start of the Six Nations earlier this year as the kind of the thing that would be improved by the new agreement.
“I think Steve and the coaches are doing that already behind the scenes and they have been doing it since Steve took over the job,” Care said.
“If there was more structure to it that might help everyone but I know Steve is working hard behind the scenes to make sure the clubs are aligned and do the best thing for the players. The wheels are already in motion for that.”