The Scottish Rugby Union has released a clarifying statement following the recent spat with Premiership Rugby (PRL) over player availability.
The disagreement arose after a vote by PRL to withhold players based at English clubs from international duty for Scotland, Samoa, Italy and Tonga over unpaid medical costs for players injured on international duty.
The outstanding medical case cited by PRL – relating to one player dating from 2013 – has no connection to any Scottish International currently playing in the Aviva Premiership so the decision by PRL to threaten the release of current England-based players in this context was both unhelpful and inappropriate.
The SRU case in particular revolves around a single player, believed to be former Scotland prop Euan Murray who played for Worcester at the time, and it relates to an “unresolved medical assessment” of his injury status.
After his Premiership Club disputed the medical assessment Scottish Rugby offered on two occasions to resolve the matter through an independent medical arbitration process, and both times this offer was not followed up.
For a union with some of the best and most experienced on and off-pitch medical staff in world rugby (Dr James Robson), it seems unlikely that the SRU would not be confident in any initial diagnosis and so they are rightly sticking to their guns. Murray suffered a suspected hamstring tear in the loss to Samoa in June of 2013, although it is not known if that is the exact injury in question. He also went on to injure his thumb in a freak accident in early 2014 while with Worcester. The SRU went on to clarify:
Scottish Rugby has not withheld fees or insurance payments and the costs under dispute are in the tens of thousands, not the six figures quoted by PRL. If an independent arbitration rules that a payment is due, then Scottish Rugby will honour that ruling.
The larger figure (in the region of £400,000) is presumably the combined figure across the four unions PRL has a beef with, and it looks like the Scottish Rugby Union, as the highest profile union of the four, has been lumped into a larger dispute to try and force a resolution in PRL’s favour.
I’m no lawyer, but it seems like this vote by PRL would have been (and continues to be) a major breach of World Rugby Regulation 9 whereby there are virtually no circumstances under which players can be withheld from international duty (if during, or in preparation for, a recognised International period) – although perhaps Vern wouldn’t have been able to call Murray up! (Having a quick scan over the relevant regulations, clearly the French clubs haven’t read Regulation 9 either, especially the part about contracts…)
Just the latest “gun to the head” tactic to be employed by PRL clubs that continue to see themselves as the dominant force in world rugby.
All players called up by Vern Cotter will be available for training camps and selection, and you can read the full SRU statement here.