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Is Buying Players Actually Hurting French Club Teams?

The policy of buying players by English and French clubs is a hot topic. Lots of players from the southern hemisphere come to spend a few years in the north to make some money, courtesy of the big spenders.

Plenty of Irish, Welsh and Scottish players have departed their home soil to join a big club in the Top 14 and the Premiership too. Pundit Arena and many other sites have published countless articles on the transfers, the money that flows into it and the influence this has on the competitions and the national sides. But is this policy actually hurting the clubs?

The one thing all rugby players know is that rugby is the ultimate team sport. A game never hangs on one man. Even Jonny Wilkinson could not have won England the World Cup without a tremendous pack of forwards in front of him, a good scrum half feeding him clean ball and a back line that could back him up.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 22: Jonny Wilkinson of England in action during the Rugby World Cup Final match between Australia and England at Telstra Stadium November 22, 2003 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Every time you go into the contact, you put your body on the line for your teammates. If you have no support, or the support is late, you lose the ball, putting your team at a disadvantage. Every tackle you make is for your mates, and every tackle you miss puts your team on the back foot. The pack cannot win a match without the backs behind them, the backs cannot win a match without the pack providing them quick ball.

As such, the best teams are really teams of mates. Even at the top level, when we look at international sides, coaches will often choose team dynamic over individual skills. There lies one reason for Steffon Armitage not making the English World Cup team, as he is playing in France. There is a policy of course, but it also has to do with availability. He had less time and opportunity to train with the national team than players in England, and would essentially be an outsider in a team of friends.

The Barbarians, while playing gorgeous rugby, rarely win big matches anymore. The test teams spend a lot of time together, and the Baa-Baas might have a week to bond before a match. They win smaller matches on individual skill and experience.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 29:  Taqele Naiyaravoro of the Barbarians charges upfield during the Rugby Union match between the Barbarians and Samoa at the Olympic Stadium on August 29, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

With the influx of foreign players, who might have a different language and come from a different culture, the French clubs especially suffer in this aspect. Toulon is a prime example. There is barely a French player in their starting line up and that shows. They have not become a true team yet. The quality in the side is phenomenal, as is the experience, but they do not seem like they have become mates. Other French sides have made the same mistake.

The FFR will introduce a rule next year stating a match day squad of 23 has to have 14 French, or French-trained players. This might solve some of the  issue, but not the big problem of purchasing players into a group of men who have to be friends.

All in all, the purchasing of players to form a team is never as effective as training players from a young age. Even in amateur rugby you can see this. Even if there is a number of expats in a team, the backbone has to be the locals.

Without them, they will not bond and there won’t be a team, just a group of players. And that’s what’s going on in French professional teams right now.

Paul Peerdeman, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.