It has been a totally infuriating season as a rugby fan. There’s no denying the product on the field is outstanding – last week’s Premiership final showed that – but the sport needs to be honest with itself off the field and sort itself out.
Rugby union as we know it is in bedlam; broadcast deals on the domestic scene are woeful outside of France and there seems to be scandal all around.
It’s been horrible watching clubs from the English Premiership cease to be top flight outfits and I cannot believe we have let it get this bad.
Then you look at the scandal that has enveloped Welsh rugby in terms of claims of sexism and misogyny and the issues in other nations surrounding contracts for women, tackle heights and fears of driving the grassroots away. It’s depressingly sad.
Rugby needs harmony, from World Rugby chair Bill Beaumont at the top down to the chiefs of each domestic league – such as Simon Massie-Taylor in England – and head coaches across the game like Eddie Jones in Australia and Andy Farrell in Ireland.
Rugby needs radical ideas
But the sport also needs radical ideas, much like those Roc Nation have attempted to bring into the United Rugby Championship.
And the sport needs rigorous, harsh auditing like the French clubs receive pre-season.
My former club Stade Francais in Paris nearly went under for running close to the line with these tests but they’re needed to ensure a season is completed without clubs falling by the wayside.
Cooperation is key if rugby is going to thrive and my feeling is that it needs to look to new ideas and voices for change.
Massie-Taylor has seemed like a breath of fresh air so far and I hope that’s a sign for the future, but France is the model at the moment and I think England is a way off that.
When Agustin Pichot challenged Beaumont for World Rugby chair in 2020, it seemed to wake up a number of sleeper agents who wanted radical change – but the incumbent won and little change occurred.
Rugby has been most of my life, and I continue to adore the spectacle on the field. But off it, it is desperately sad to see players stuck in the unknown because of decisions being made that are out of their hands.
The sport needs to do better, and I am for anything that helps it along on that path.
Six and going strong
I said last week that Saracens would just edge away from Sale in the Premiership final – and what a finale it was.
I love seeing Sale play their brand of physical but forward-thinking rugby but the final was just too far for them.
They will be back, though. They are a great outfit under Alex Sanderson and will have revenge on their minds next season.
There were a number of players across the park who impressed for both sides but I did think Owen Farrell was outstanding, as were much of the Saracens back line.
Manu Tuilagi looked back to his destructive best but his game has changed for the better in my opinion.
A shout out to Munster, too, who were sensational in their URC victory down in Cape Town against the Stormers.
Across the Channel
It’s quarter-final time in the Top14 and my old club Stade Francais are engaging in a Parisian battle on Saturday against arch rivals Racing 92.
I loved those derbies; they’re special. And while each team has gone through their ebbs and flows over the last couple of years, it’s set to be one of the matches of the season.
Lyon host Bordeaux in the other match and, alongside confirmed semi-finalists Toulouse and La Rochelle, all six sides currently have, or this summer will be employing, an England international.
I’ve said it before but it is time England rethink their overseas selection policy.
Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.