The first professional rugby union club, Newcastle Gosforth, is currently
in the ba***t of England's National League 2 with a 1-7 record. By the
time all of their new signings are eligible to play, they may have dug
themselves such a deep hole that they cannot avoid relagation to League 3.
They are almost already eliminated from promotion to League 1 for next
It is clear that the there is a substantial difference in the level of
play between League 1 and 2 (let alone 3). Will people be willing to pay
to see Newcastle spend at least two years fighting its way up to league 1?
Is that rich guy willing to absorb the losses and player salaries as they
move their way up? Will any aspiring Internationals be willing to stay
with them during their quest?
The performance of Northampton in Division 2 is indicative of the
discrepancy in play between the two leagues. Northampton was rather
unfortunate to be relegated after last season. Early season
disorganization coupled with late season one point losses during 94-95 led
to relegation even though the Saints probably were not the weakest team in
League 1 last year.
Northampton has won all 8 of its League 2 matches by an average score of
53-11. They lost a close early non-league match at Leicester. They have
retained their top players despite relegation (Rodber, Bayfield, Hunter,
Walton) and added players such as Jonathan Bell and Gregor Townsend. If
they are not back in league 1 for 96-97, I imagine that most, if not all,
of those players would move on.
It will be interesting to see how the Saints do during the Pilkington Cup.
They are winning by huge margins in League 2 by moving the ball and
scoring tries. Will they continue to do so or will they play tighter in
the later rounds against League 1 clubs?
In the end, will only the 10 League 1 clubs be the professional rugby
clubs in England, drawing the best players from the rest of the country? I
think that following Northampton and Newcastle will shed some light on