England star's surprising advice for young players
SPOTLIGHT: England forward Courtney Lawes has said young rugby players should have no qualms about playing abroad even if it hampers their Test prospects.
The 34-year-old is set to remain a one-club man after it was announced Saturday he had extended his contract with Premiership club Northampton.
But in a season where both Wasps and Worcester have been expelled from England’s top flight after going out of business, and with London Irish now facing questions over their ability to pay wages, Lawes urged younger players to be “pretty business-minded” about their futures.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Lawes told British media during a news conference. “It’s just so disappointing how we got here. About five years ago we were probably the fastest-growing sport in the country.
“We have to get some people in who understand how we’re going to make this game a proper business, so that it continues to grow and players are financially compensated for what they’re doing to themselves. And so the fans are getting what they pay for too, in terms of the quality of the game.”
He added: “There has to be a solution made here in England. The RFU [England’s Rugby Football Union] and Premiership Rugby have to come together and find out how we’re going to make this work, otherwise the league is going to suffer.”
Concerns have been expressed that, following the collapse of Wasps and Worcester, the cash-strapped English game could see a huge player exodus to wealthier overseas teams following this year’s World Cup in France.
At present, RFU rules mean players at overseas clubs are barred from England selection save in “exceptional circumstances”.
But that has not deterred the likes of England internationals Jack Nowell, Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marchant and David Ribbans from all deciding to move abroad for next season.
“I completely understand if the offers are that much better in another country or at another team, you’ve got to make that work,” said Lawes, a veteran of 97 England caps and bidding to appear in his fourth Rugby World Cup later this year.
“It’s a finite career and it’s important you look after yourself, as when it’s all over that money is stopping. Do what is best for you, is my advice for the young lads.”