Cotter: England’s problems not behind salary cap

Clermont Auvergne coach Vern Cotter has hit back at Saracens coach Mark McCall’s comments that the Premiership’s salary cap is prejudicing English clubs by saying there is more to it than that.

Clermont, belying the stereotype that French sides are bad travellers, hammered Premiership champions Saracens 22-3 in Watford, north of London and Saracens coach McCall immediately pointed out that French teams don’t play on a level playing field as they are allowed more money to buy players.

Wales full-back Lee Byrne scored the only try of the match and Australian flyhalf Brock James kicked 17 points for the French club which adds weight to McCall’s comments as neither player are French.

It should be noted however the Saracens fielded a number of players with South African heritage.

Meanwhile Exeter, Harlequins and Wasps were all knocked out of the second tier European Challenge Cup by French clubs.

Not since the early days of continental competition, when English clubs were involved in a boycott of the tournaments, has a season climaxed with no Premiership teams in the last four of either the European or Challenge Cups.

For many years English clubs, bound by a salary cap, have looked on enviously at their French counterparts, many bankrolled by wealthy businessmen, have assembled ‘no-expense spared’ squads.

Although the French Top 14 has now introduced a salary cap, it is almost double the £4.2 million agreed by Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body for England’s leading clubs.

“You could almost see the difference in the salary caps as you looked down on the pitch at various times, there is no question about that,” Saracens coach Mark McCall said after watching Clermont steamroller his side.

“The squad they were able to bring is outstanding and the stats don’t lie. It is getting increasingly difficult to get into the quarter-final stages.

“For England to have absolutely no involvement in the semi-finals of the Amlin (Challenge) or the Heineken (European) Cup speaks for itself.”

But New Zealander Cotter, who guided Clermont to victory in the 2010 Top 14 final after overseeing a run of three successive defeats in the showpiece match, said: “There is a salary cap in France as well, it is probably slightly more elevated than it is here (England).

“I don’t believe that was the reason for the result.”

Meanwhile McCall backed Clermont, who face defending champions Leinster in the semi-finals, to win the European Cup.

“Their team is star-studded and the internationals they brought off the bench, they were just too good for us,” he said.

“They will be a very difficult team to beat. Their semi-final against Leinster will be tremendous.”

The other European Cup semi-final sees Ulster up against Edinburgh in Dublin.

The Irish side upset the odds to beat provincial rivals Munster although that was nothing compared to Edinburgh’s defeat of four-times champions Toulouse that saw them become the first Scottish side to reach a European Cup semi-final.


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