Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam believes the production line of English talent will suffer from the decision to reduce the number of marquee players at each Gallagher Premiership club from two to one. As part of a drive to reduce costs in the wake of the financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the salary cap has been cut by £1.4million to £5m from this season.
In addition, as of 2022/23, each club will only be able to retain one player whose wages fall outside the £5m ceiling once existing contracts have expired. Lam has confirmed that the Bears’ prized assets Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau are tied to Ashton Gate for next term despite speculation that their marquee players might depart sooner.
The Bristol boss insists the influence of high-quality overseas players such as Radradra should not be underestimated. “Both of them have been phenomenal since they have been here. They have been massive,” Lam said. “People talk about them around the world and that puts a spotlight on the English Premiership. What they have done is have an impact on the guys here.
“All of those boys – Steven Luatua, John Afoa, Chris Vui as well – have had a massive impact on the guys around them and they are English players and you will see them coming through. They get the chance to work with these guys, who help them as well.
“So there is the impact on the next generation coming through and on the English qualified guys who learn off them. Every team has had marquee players and the purpose of them was to get the right person to not only help you on the field but also to help the competition and help those who are coming through.”
“Without a doubt, the try shows what he can do,” Lam said about Radradra, one of high profile Bristol recruits. “The team provided the opportunity for Semi to linebreak and Semi reminded everybody how world-class he is at those things. Semi’s a real trooper. You guys see those moments, but we see the other moments that he has created.
“I said after the game that he would be the first to admit he wants to be better. Every day he works away on it [the knee injury]. Semi is one of the mentally toughest at just cracking on and he just goes through it.”
Meanwhile, Lam says he supports the principle behind a law trial in place in Super Rugby that means a sent-off player can be tactically replaced by a substitute after 20 minutes. World Rugby is to consider extending the law trial, which is designed to stop games being ruined by the increase in dismissals because of dangerous tackles, to other competitions. “To me, the bigger issue is the consistency in the decisions to give reds,” Lam said.
“That [the law trial] would help if a decision is not consistent. It used to be very rare that there was a red card. Red cards were for out and out foul play, punching someone or really dangerous play. The rule is probably a good idea with the number of red cards that are out there at the moment. They are very prevalent and pretty much every week someone gets a red card.”