THE RECENT TV rights deal struck by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) will undoubtedly be met with apprehension across the rugby world.
France’s mega-rich clubs already have their pick from the cream of the crop of international rugby and they will now have even more financial clout.
The LNR, the umbrella organisation that represents France’s premier clubs, has successful negotiated a five-year deal with Canal+ worth a whopping annual £59million for exclusive live TV rights to the Top 14.
They are effectively more than doubling the current contract which expires at the end of the season.
It is significantly overshadows the £152million four-year deal, which is still shrouded in mystery, that the Premiership clubs have agreed with BT Sport and overwhelmingly dwarfs those currently held by the Celtic nations.
France’s big-spending elite will now be armed with an even bigger war chest to capture the game’s brightest stars.
Gloucester have already lost the likes of Jim Hamilton, Luke Narraway, Alasdair Strokosch and more recently Akapusi Qera to the Continent.
England has not seen the alarming exodus of players seen by the likes of Wales, who next season could field an entire team of current internationals based beyond their borders.
But with the increased buying power in France how long will Gloucester be able to compete for the likes of John Afoa and Richard Hibbard?
And while Stuart Lancaster’s home rule policy has ensured England internationals have stayed put, how long will it be until the financial pull is too great?
Not only will it become increasingly difficult to attract the star names, wages across the board are likely to be further inflated.
Even more worryingly, as Gloucester chief executive Stephen Vaughan pointed out this week, Top14 clubs are now turning attention to back-room staff.
An advantage of staying in England, and indeed the Celtic nations, is the rugby expertise at the clubs.
The analysis, strength and conditioning, and medical teams are acknowledged to be bigger and more prominent to that on offer in France.
But if the Top14 clubs continue to catch up they will not only have the power to import the best players but the experts that develop the talent.