It’s been another difficult week at Franklin’s Gardens, with the confirmation that key props Soane Tonga’uiha and Brian Mujati look set to leave next summer after being offered big-money deals to play in France.
You can’t blame the players for taking the money on offer, and it’s clear Saints can’t compete with their rivals across the Channel when it comes to loosening the purse strings.
It’s another example of the uneven playing field in European rugby, and surely it’s time for the wage cap in the Aviva Premiership to be scrapped or increased significantly, and not just so English clubs can compete better in Europe, but also so the bigger clubs can thrive domestically as well.
The Premiership is now very well established, and all of the clubs - big or small - should be left to fend for themselves.
At the minute the bigger clubs are seeing their hands tied.
I just don’t think it’s right Saints (average home gate 13,000) should be restricted to spending the same on players as clubs that only generate a fraction of their revenue.
I mean, can you imagine Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson being told that he has to work to the same wage structure as, say, Fulham? Or Wigan Athletic?
It is unthinkable, and something has to be done about this.
I appreciate that rugby’s rulers don’t want a situation like there is in football where money rules, and the big clubs seemingly just keep getting bigger and the rest are left fighting for the scraps, but surely that is just the way it is?
Clubs should be able to cut their cloth according to how much income they generate.
Why should Saints (or Leicester, or Gloucester) be stopped from making the most of the fact they have a big fanbase and get more punters through the turnstiles than some of their rivals?
It’s not Saints’ fault that Sale, Worcester or London Welsh can’t attract big crowds, and it must be enormously frustrating for director of rugby Jim Mallinder to see Franklin’s Gardens bursting at the seams every other week, but knowing it wouldn’t really matter if only 5,000 were turning up instead of 13,000, because it makes no difference to his playing budget.
So surely it is time to get rid of the salary cap in rugby, or at least lift it to more realistic levels so that the big fish of the English game can really prosper.
ENGLAND STRUGGLERS NEED TO UP THEIR GAME
As impressive and welcome as the second Test win over India was, England cricket supporters should be keeping a lid on their expectations for the rest of the four-match series.
Because many of the problems and weaknesses that led to the first Test defeat and the team’s other six losses over the course of 2012 are still there - batsmen unable to play spin, powder-puff pace bowlers - and look like they will be for the rest of the series.
The efforts of four players – Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar (big up to the Northants school of spin!) – effectively won the second Test, and the worry for England is if those players don’t perform in the next game, who will?
I know it’s a team game, and the above players are in the team to do precisely what they did do, but I just feel that if they don’t repeat their performances in the rest of the series (and you can’t expect the same players to keep producing), which of the other seven in the line-up can provide the runs and take the wickets to trouble India?
The likes of Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Samit Patel have done virtually nothing of note, and in all honesty, don’t look like they will.
Matt Prior and opener Nick Compton at least look like they may have a big performance in them, but they are the only two.
So yes, let’s enjoy the victory and enjoy the performance, but there a few players who need to take a long, hard look at themselves and up their game if the second Test win isn’t to be a flash in the pan.
SWANN IN GOOD SHAPE TO REACH 400 TEST WICKETS
Graeme Swann has now grabbed 206 Test victims and is 13th in the list of all-time Test wicket-takers for England. He is also the most successful off-spinner in this country’s history, having gone past the great Jim Laker in the first Test.
It is a fantastic achievement by Northampton boy Swann, and he will be a lot further up that all-time wicket-takers chart by the time he is finished.
Indeed, team-mate Jimmy Anderson has gone on record to say he believes Swann has the capability of surpassing Ian Botham’s record of 383 wickets, and will become the first Englishman to top the 400 mark.
As a spinner, Swann is theoretically only now entering his prime at the age of 33, and it could be that Anderson is right.
It is going to take a phenomenal effort from former Sponne School student Swann, and he is going to have to be lucky with injuries, but he could just do it.
He has only been a regular in the England Test team for the past five years, and he has hit the 200 mark.
With the England team playing anything up to 14 Tests every calendar year, that means Swann - fitness and form permitting - could play around 60 matches over the netxt five years, and before he is 38.
So you are looking at him bowling in perhaps 100 full innings, possibly more, which means he would only need two wickets per innings to top the 400 mark.
That, to me, sounds well within Swann’s reach.