. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Problems Beset New Rugby Season

LONDON -- English club rugby enters a whole new ball game Saturday hoping piles of cash and a huge influx of new faces from overseas and rugby league will help bridge the widening gap with its southern hemisphere rivals.


The season, though, begins under the shadow of serious and unresolved matters.


On the one hand the English national team may be on the brink of being thrown out of the Five Nations while, on the other, the English Professional Rugby Union Clubs, or EPRUC, representing the top clubs in the country, indicated that a total split from the Rugby Football Union was likely.


Quite what shape or form an England team will take in the new season, if they can settle on a fixture list, remains to be seen.


For the clubs, rugby league stars like the Paul brothers, Martin Offiah and Va'aiga Tuigamala will find themselves pitted against such established union greats as Michael Lynagh, Philippe Sella and Laurent Cabannes.


Add the know-how of top overseas coaches such as Bob Dwyer, hired to give Leicester's title prospects extra luster, and an expanded European Cup competition and it is easy to understand the frustration over England's failure to resolve the damaging Five Nations dispute still hogging most of the headlines as well as the new dispute with EPRUC.


But champions Bath view it differently. It was their challenge matches against Wigan earlier this year which brought Wigan's Jason Robinson and Henry to Rugby Union.


Many have suggested the expensive capture of league players who must return to their league clubs halfway through the season in January will turn out to be a mistake and lead to the collapse of some clubs.


The coming season, which also includes visits from Australia, South Africa, Argentina and the New Zealand Barbarians, looks set to answer many questions, not all of them comfortable.