Chris Robshaw has declared the pinnacle of English rugby “illegal” and accused Saracens of cheating after they were punished for breaches of salary cap regulations.
Saracens were handed a 35-point deduction in this season’s Gallagher Premiership and fined more than £5million on Tuesday, although both sanctions will be suspended while the club – who described the action as “heavy-handed” – appeal against them.
The European champions risked another financial penalty on Wednesday by failing to turn up for the 2019-20 season launch of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup in Cardiff.
Former England captain Robshaw was scathing of his criticism of Saracens, saying the London club had dragged rugby union’s reputation through the mud.
“It’s not great, the game we love is in the world eye and the pinnacle of English rugby is illegal,” said Harlequins skipper Robshaw.
“I think it puts our sport in a very dangerous place.
“We’re a sport that claims to be whiter than white, and we always look down on football, we look down on this and that and say how it is but we are like everyone else.
“This is cheating to a certain extent and it’s not a good situation for our sport to be in.
“Whether it’s them (Saracens) or someone else, it’s not a thing we pride ourselves on.
“As a sport, we have got to take the damage that comes with that now and I’m sure it will be like that for a while.
“It will not be easy for our sport to move forward, we have got some damage control to do.”
In 2015, Saracens were one of two clubs who reached confidential agreements with Premiership Rugby Limited – the league’s governing body – over salary cap issues.
The league was accused at the time of turning a blind eye to any misdemeanours and wrote the slate clean to the dismay of some clubs.
So, while Saracens have been under scrutiny for some time over their management of the cap, the latest findings only apply to the last three seasons and do not take into account the investigation of 2015.
“It’s one of those things that have been spoken about for a long time among players and the wider public,” Robshaw said.
“When you look at their squad, it’s a pretty big squad of international players and I think you don’t have to be a genius to work some of these figures out.
“It looks like it’s started to be dealt with (by Premiership Rugby Limited). Is it finished? I don’t know, but hopefully it’s going in the right direction and we can get back to a level playing field where we want to compete because that’s what the salary cap is about.
“It’s making sure everyone has a chance, everyone has the same level of funding, can compete and we have a competitive league.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
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