London Irish Rugby

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London Irish head coach Toby Booth has followed Leicester boss Richard Cockerill in appealing to the RFU and Premier Rugby to ease the financial restraints placed on English clubs, hindering their progress in the Heineken Cup.

Despite having 7 finalists in the last decade the English sides feel they are being hampered in their attempts to compete with the free spending French and even some of the Celtic Nations.

Booth complained that “it is tough for English clubs because of the constraints we have to work under”. It is a clear call to those in charge to do something about the situation which has led to the possibility of as many as six of the seven English sides being eliminated at the group stage of the competition. In reality it is likely at least two will advance, but this is still a far cry from the 2007 final where Wasps defeated Leicester in an all English affair.

Booth’s Exiles were eliminated from the competition at the weekend with a defeat at the hands of Cardiff Blues and the Irish boss admits to have been disappointed by their campaign. He points to the fact that young inexperienced players have not been able to perform at the highest level and as such the English sides, who have been forced to gamble on younger players, in the absence of the 15 superstars some of the French and Irish teams are able to field.

Booth places an emphasis on the physicality of the English Premiership as well as the salary cap as hindering the attempts of the English to concur the French.

The arguments seem sincere and come at a time when English Rugby has struggled in the current season. It would make for a far more convincing case though if English sides hadn’t been a dominant force in the competition in recent years.

Northampton’s appearance in last year’s final seems to prove that is the case, as does Harlequins defeat of Toulouse. Come May there is still every possibility that either Harlequins or Saracens could be representing England in the final of Europe’s premier competition.

And there was more disappointment for English rugby lovers when the fan’s take on their international tournament chances were revealed. The best Six Nations odds for England are a massive 8/1 – with France the firm favourites, and even Ireland ahead of them in the international pecking order. It might be a miserable year for the English in Europe.