In last week’s article I wrote about premiership clubs that might struggle or thrive in the absence of their international stars. As of yet (I’m writing this as Leicester take on Harlequins), the only ‘big’ upset has come in the form of Gloucester beating money-men Wasps…Just goes to show that money can’t buy you everything.
This week I’m looking at whether the premiership is as exciting without their big name players such as Billy Vunipola, Eliot Daly etc. As it is with them.
Now just to clarify, when I talk about a big name player I’m talking about any player in the starting XV with the number 8 or higher on the back of their shirt. Because let’s be honest, no-one has ever bought a season-ticket to see Dan Cole scrummage.
Where before these ‘marquee players’ were just signed for their abilities on the pitch, there is now an ulterior motive for clubs to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on them…they put bums on seats!!
When you look at the likes of George North for Northampton, Owen Farrell for Saracens and well, the entire Wasps back-line you notice that they all have one thing in common – people will pay to see these guys play. And at the end of the day if fans don’t attend matches, clubs can’t make money and players won’t get paid – It’s the corporate circle of rugby life.
So when on international duty, because usually a trademark of the marquee player is to be an international star, is the domestic game as exciting?
Last week I made the point that this time of year is a great opportunity for clubs to show their strength in depth, and I apply the same theory to this.
These young fringe players that are gunning to make their mark on England’s top flight, will be looking to show some of their individual X-factor when the chance comes. Whether it’s an 80 metre sprint to the line, a try saving tackle or even a chip & chase with catching the ball on the full, stepping the 15 and diving under the posts to score an 86th minute match winning try, they’ll want to do it!
However, even with all this flare and enthusiasm they might hope to bring to a game, there is always something else that is just as entertaining that they might bring…cock-ups!
When trying so hard to impress, messing up is inevitable. I’m certain any rugby player reading this will know exactly what I’m taking about…
Either way though, it’s all exciting stuff! There will always be the odd 12 – 6 bore (normally at Kingston Park), but some people like these games, not many, but some. For a true fan of the game, any rugby is good rugby. Even if your side get slammed by 30-something points to nil, you can guarantee the opposition scored a tasty try or two.
So if you’re not sure if your team is going to perform in their next match due to a lack of ‘quality’ players, fear not! Go along, have a beer and watch some 18-year old winger become the next YouTube sensation through getting steamrolled by a 20 stone prop.