Rugby: Is Influx of Southern Talent Hurting the Guinness Premiership?

Sean KellyAnalyst IJuly 16, 2008

Since the game turned professional in 1995, England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland have seen a rise in the amount of talent from the Southern Hemisphere.

These All-Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks, and Fijians have graced the shores of the British Isles with their daring play, sparkling runs, and big hits. But is it for a price that the UK (and Ireland) shouldn't be willing to pay.

This price is a metaphorical price—I'm not referring to money. This price is that of the youth of their home nations are not getting the chance they truly deserve to show their coaches they have what it takes to become professionals.

Teams choose to bring in these foreign players, without considering a player closer to home, or from the academy, or even the players on the edge of the first 22.

Recently, Toulon have enjoyed riches of southern talent, which has elevated them to the Top-14, including George Gregan, Andrew Mehrtens, and Tana Umaga, with their most recent signing being that of Jerry Collins.

Most would argue that this talent has stopped coaches looking into the youth of the club, and overlooking any potential French starts of Toulon. Some would argue that this foreign influx of players will help the younger players at the club develop properly.

I’d say that the argument goes both ways, but there is a gentle balance between enough foreign talent to help the younger members of your team and having so many southern hemisphere players that your home grown talent don’t even get a look in.

I have two examples for the upcoming season:

Nick Evans has decided to have his go at performing in the Guinness Premiership with Harlequins. Having lost their fly half Adam Jarvis to Bristol, the London outfit needed to bring in an consistent outside half who will help them get that top four finish that deemed too elusive for them last season.

Nick Evans is predominantly a running fly half who enjoys throwing the ball around, which will surely compliment the attractive rugby the young backs at Harlequins shown they can play.

And with the experience Evans has got after playing for the Highlanders, the Blues and the All Blacks, he can surely help this young Harlequins side reach their potential, as well as teach the young talent there how to develop.

Then again, Toby Flood has recently moved to Guinness Premiership finalists the Leicester Tigers. I really thought this was a clever move, as he would have a chance to win titles and play in big competitions.

And when I heard Andy Goode was moving to Brive, it sounded even better so that he could try and make the 10 shirt his. Only for Leicester’s new South African Coach Heyneke Meyer to sign a fellow South African Derik Hougaard. Meyer and Hougaard have quite a bond having teamed up before.

"Heyneke always had the ability to get the best out of a player, and ever since I was young he backed me and it goes without saying that he had an enormous positive influence on my career," said Hougaard.

I would expect Hougaard and Mauger to make the 10-12 connection at the Tigers, with Flood being left on the bench and to start the odd game. Hougaard is famed for his accurate kicking, and being the person at the tender age of 19 to score the most points (26) in a Curry Cup final.

Flood will not develop as well as he could have if he were given a chance to start every game possible, which he would of done at Newcastle. I’d also expect him to get swapped around a lot at 10 and 12, making his performances inconsistent.

Overall, I’d probably say foreign talent helps our home grown talent, but the foreign players should not be prioritised.

Otherwise our beloved Guinness Premiership and Heineken Cup will turn into the English Football Premiership: Predominately a foreign business!