Wrong to question the players' loyalty
IThe question of players' loyalty to their clubs raised its head again in a big way this week. The news that Saracens had signed Harlequins prop James Johnston and that Wasps' No.8 Billy Vunipola was a big talking point for both the clubs involved and their supporters.
Quins coach Conor O'Shea said he was "very disappointed" to lose Johnston, while his opposite number at Wasps, Dai Young, was surprised Vunipola decided to leave because they had "offered him the contract he had asked for".
The big back-rowers' move across London caused the most controversy because Wasps apparently had no idea he was moving until Saracens announced it.
Whether Sarries' latest big-money acquisitions enables them to remain under the £4.5m salary cap is anyone's guess – but then that's another story.
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Vunipola was hammered by Wasps fans on social media in the aftermath his decision.
The 'unexpected' nature of his departure hardly did him any favours.
And with Wasps looking a genuine candidate for a top-six position and, maybe a top-four spot this season, their supporters would have been gutted that one of the figureheads of this season's dramatic resurgence has decided not only to leave the club – but to join Saracens, of all clubs.
But I think the foul calls over his "lack of loyalty" are way off the mark.
Especially when you counter in the fact that he will now be playing with his brother, prop Mako Vunipola.
It would be nice to think that players are grateful for the way any club in question has looked after them, paid them good money and, hopefully improved their game, during their stay there.
But I disagree with the way those players are then pilliored by supports for a so-called "lack of loyalty" if they decide to leave for a better deal.
The professional career of a rugby player is getting shorter every year and in the eight or 10-year spell these players have to make the most of their earning power.
Who can blame them for accepting an offer which adds to their financial security?
The vast number of forced retirements this season – not only at Leicester with the likes of Harry Ellis, Ben Woods and Craig Newby in recent years – but all over the world, have emphasised the fragile nature of a professional rugby players longevity in the game.
When their rugby careers are over, there is no option for them to continue their trade at another company – the opportunity that most of us have in our working lives.
As if to make the issue of earning power crystal clear, Leinster and Ireland fly-half Jonny Sexton is being courted by several French clubs, with Racing Metro at the top of the list.
Sexton is an established player coming towards the end of a career and looking for one last pay check.
The 27-year-old has a total of 34 Test caps under his belt and would be in line to at least double that amount if he stays in Ireland.
The Irish Rugby Union are desperate to keep their attacking talisman, who is reportedly on around 300,000 euros a year.
But the Paris-based Racing club are understood to be offering a salary of around 750,000 euro.
It's enough to test anyone's 'loyalty'. What would you do?