Dawson points finger of blame at RFU
PA Sport
February 17, 2007

The Rugby Football Union have only got themselves to blame for the latest club-versus-country dispute, according to World Cup winner Matt Dawson.

The former England scrum-half believes that had the game's governing body decided to impose cricket-style central contracts when making rugby professional in 1995, the current problems could have been avoided.

National team boss Brian Ashton named his side for next Saturday's crunch RBS 6 Nations clash with Ireland this week in the hope that no-one from his starting XV would be selected for Guinness Premiership action over the coming weekend.

That move has not gone down well at some of the clubs, who felt they were being unfairly pressurised into fielding weakened line-ups.

Dawson, who retired at the end of last season, told BBC Radio Five Live: "It does stem all the way back to that very first day of professionalism when the RFU didn't want to sign the players and take them under their wing, and therefore have complete control.

"Therefore, the clubs did come to the fore. They have stumped up millions and millions of pounds to maintain the clubs and the players and give them their salary month in, month out.

"So it is going to be very, very difficult to turn this around.

"I'm sure there are solutions out there in some kind of centrally-contracted way. They're scared of using that phrase, but I would like to see maybe in the next few years that actually they do realise there's only one aspect of rugby that's suffering and that's the players.

"The injury list is getting longer and longer and, until we sort this issue out, realistically we're not going to be able to compete consistently at the highest level."

Dawson is in no doubt the early naming of the England team was an attempt at "squeezing a little bit of pressure" on the clubs but insists it was "unrealistic" to expect all 15 players to be rested.

As it is, seven are set to play some part this weekend and Dawson is in no doubt where his sympathies lie.

"All of these international players want to perform at the highest level, whether it be for their club as well as their country," he said.

"It does put an enormous amount of pressure on the players. That's why they have to take the decision away from the players.

"The RFU and the clubs need to come together and somehow come up with a solution that the players don't make that decision.

"These players are getting pulled from pillar to post and it's not fair on them."

Asked whether he saw the status quo continuing five years down the line, Dawson added: "The frightening thing is we probably will."

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