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New broom to sweep most foreigners out

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New broom to sweep most foreigners out

Post by Admin on Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:49 pm

A new mood is blowing through French rugby following the appointment of Pierre-Yves Revol as president of the Ligue National de Rugby - the days of wild spending on overseas stars, including All Blacks, could soon be over.

The powerful men of French rugby want more local men in local teams and are prepared to legislate to get what they want. A proposal has been put forward to restrict the number of foreign players to no more than 30 per cent of club squads by 2011-2012. New Zealand's top brass will love what they are hearing from Revol, the former president of Castres who has succeeded Serge Blanco as the man in charge of the Top 14 (France's elite professional club competition). It's especially pleasing as when he arrived in December last year, he said he was unlikely to usher radical change.

"My priority will be to make sure the values of French rugby are not threatened. My priority is to defend France's rugby heritage. I believe we are lucky in that we have a tolerant public, extraordinary respect for referees, that is the envy of everyone else. We need to be very vigilant that that heritage is not dented."

The invasion of Kiwis, South Africans, Argentinians, Italians, Georgians and now English, is the single greatest threat to the game in France. It is killing their international aspirations. France, one incredible night in Cardiff aside, are a pale shadow of their former selves. They have lost their soul. Their only unpredictability is whether they are going to be ordinary or just plain bad. Hammered by England and swept away by Ireland, France had one 80-minute effort against Wales to be proud of in this year's Six Nations. Start throwing together a World XV and you can skip France - they don't have any superstars other than the hirsute Sebastien Chabal whose fame is built on the foundation of two tackles in 2007 and his unfamiliarity with a razor.

The root cause of this decline? The influx of foreign players into the leading French clubs.

Almost 45 per cent of all Top 14 professionals don't qualify to play for France, up from 25 per cent in 2006. Revol is ready to move and will be supported by former France coach Bernard Laporte, who is now the secretary for sport. Laporte cited Toulon to highlight where the game in France was losing its way. "When I look at this Toulon team, there are three French players. It's hard to say that 12 foreign players represent an identity, a culture, the supporters who love the jersey.

"When you went to play at Stade Mayol [Toulon's home ground] in days gone by you were scared because of the bond between team and public. I believe that Toulon has got the ratio between French and foreign players wrong."

Revol wants the number of foreigners reduced to 30 per cent by 2012 but it will take a sustained effort to persuade the European Commerce Commission to sanction a quota. But at least the issue of foreign players is acknowledged and even the prospect of legislation to restrict numbers might make club owners wary of handing over big cheques to All Blacks.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/rugby/news/article.cfm?c_id=80&objectid=10565248
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