The news escaping from the RFU via the Daily Telegraph is the worst to hit England rugby players since the lockdown began.
All the men’s and women’s Sevens players stand to lose their contracts at the end of August for five months, in line with the original finishing date of the Tokyo Olympics. There is no certainty about the terms they may be offered on any resumption.
This all goes back to the huge losses the RFU is making. Sevens players are on the sharp end of the knife.
In the present economic climate it won’t be easy for players to find a job for such a limited period. They have had to adjust to a year’s delay to their Olympic preparations; this extra blow may have serious consequences on their ability to reinvigorate their chances of medals.
For the women, it throws into doubt the wisdom of full-time professional contracts. Of course, no-one could have imagined the sequence of events over the last half year, but it calls into question the most sensible type of contract for women’s rugby at this stage of its development.
Neither France nor New Zealand have followed England’s example for Fifteens rugby, though voices are heard calling for equality. But at least they all have an employment they can turn to when necessity comes calling.
Sale Sharks have acted super-fast in signing on Jodie Ounsley, the very promising 19-year-old who had earned her place in the elite Sevens squad. She has the sort of quality that Darren Lamon admits he needs to fill out his squad. He still has seven more places to fill.
The suddenness of this RFU decision reminds us of the situation three years ago. just before the World Cup they made public that the England women’s Fifteens squad would lose their contracts the moment the final was completed. At least they knew the terms of their contract; the populace didn’t.
This time round we must fear that the unwelcome news came to the players at the same time as their admiring public. Let’s hope the Fifteens squad don’t have a similar fate awaiting them. But if the World Cup is postponed too…