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    5. Gregor Townsend accuses Premier Rugby of 'undermining the integrity of ..


    Gregor Townsend accuses Premier Rugby of 'undermining the integrity of the Six Nations'

    While Finn Russell is due to return to Bath for the fallow week, Jamie George could remain in England. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

    Gregor Townsend has accused Premiership Rugby of undermining the integrity of the Six Nations by demanding the return of Scottish stars during the competition's fallow weeks.

    Heading into the Calcutta Cup, Townsend claims that England were given twice as much training time as Scotland after co-captain Finn Russell, flanker Andy Christie and center Cameron Redpath returned to their Premier League squads in the first week of rest despite the league break.

    The glitch didn't stop Scotland recording their fourth straight win over Auld Enemy in their 30-21 win at Murrayfield, but it didn't assuage the disappointment of the Scotland head coach as he prepares to lose Russell and others. We are approaching the current fallow week.

    “We didn’t have the best preparation,” Townsend said. “England were twice as prepared as we were before the game today because our English players are not allowed to train. Even though there are no games in the English Premier League, even though clubs will be closed for a week next week, we are still not allowed the likes of Finn Russell to train with us.

    “Two training sessions is all we get as a team before the England game, but it would have been four if we had been given two weeks, I think it will be the same situation again now. This is truly an unfair disadvantage that we have. I don't think this is right for the overall integrity of the competition.”

    Andy Christie is set to return to Saracens before the fourth match. round of games despite the Premier League break. Photo: Ben Wheatley/PA Wire

    Under World Rugby Regulation 9, clubs are required to release players only during pre-agreed international windows, which do not include the Six Nations steam weeks. Under the terms of the Professional Games Agreement between the Premier League and the Rugby Football Union, worth more than £200 million, the England head coach has the right to keep his players in camp during these periods.

    Historically, Premier League matches would have been played during the Six Nations window, but with the league reduced to 10 teams, the competition was suspended from late January until March 22, adding to Townsend's anger. Asked if he thought the confrontation was ridiculous, Townsend replied: “Absolutely. Especially when they could be spending time with their families and helping us prepare, but we had to put that down last week when Richie Simpson ran 10s for us in two sessions, to his credit he never played professional rugby. , he played inside Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones and outside George Horne in preparation, but look, I really wish this situation was better because it doesn't suit our players.

    “It’s a credit to the players that they came out to play today after two sessions and showed such a performance. Normally rule nine states that we can only take players from outside Scotland during international week training and this is to ensure players don't miss club games, but when there are no club competitions there is no point that you are still preventing the player from traveling from Bath or anywhere else.”

    The situation applies equally to the Welsh Rugby Union, which is privately believed to share Townsend's frustrations, although both unions have the right to enter into their own compensation agreements. From Premier Rugby's point of view, they are complying with the terms of Regulation 9 and are not going to do the Celtic Union any favors when the RFU is paying them handsomely for the same privilege.

    “Premier League Rugby has a long-standing agreement with the RFU to release England players to prepare for test matches,” a Premier League Rugby spokesman said. “Under World Rugby Rule 9, all international players move to the Unions at certain periods and then return to their Premier League clubs – as in previous campaigns. Although World Rugby Rule 9 compensation is being reviewed in anticipation of the new global calendar from 2026, Premiership Rugby will continue to adhere to this rule as it stands.”

    World Rugby is also expected to change the international periods defined in Law 9 when the new international calendar comes into force in 2026. Meanwhile, Townsend will have to bite the bullet and Russell will be forced to leave again, even though he claims individual clubs are glad they remain in the Scottish camp.

    “Over the last two weeks we have failed get our players,” Townsend said. “I know there seems to be a bigger picture of releasing players, but the clubs want their players, or have made it clear to us that they want their players to train with us, because in the Premier League there are no training and games for seven to eight weeks. We still can't allow our captain, who covered the Premier League, to come into camp for two days of training a week ago, and we'll have the same thing next week.

    “ When we play England , and they don't allow players to go up when England have a training camp, I don't think they will make changes next week for Italy and if they do there will be more. It’s disappointing that they didn’t do it this week either.”

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