So I’ve had some time on my hands and thought I’d explore the title of this article a little further.

Admittedly the only source I have used is Wikipedia and yes, I know it’s like going to McDonalds for a steak, but as I say, I had a little bit of time.

A quote to rile

I recently read this article about Guy Noves and the struggling French national side. In the article was a quote that resonated with me to the point of riling me up. That quote is: “I know some of the reasons for it but I don’t really want to list them because otherwise, they’ll say I’m complaining“. This is in response to his team’s performance.

I honestly don’t believe a national head coach should ever feel that they have to hide opinions about the state of the game in their country. It seems absurd.

Numbers tell a story

On the back of this, I had a look at the playing rosters of the Top 14 clubs. In particular, I focused on one metric, that of nationality. And to be fair, I was pretty shocked, to say the least, at what I found.


I haven’t been through every league on the planet, of every sport, but there is a belief that the English Premier League (Football) has rather alarming figures as well. And to be honest, it hasn’t served the English very well (currently ranked 15th in the world).

Chelsea Football Club

Having a look at the roster of current EPL champions, Chelsea, paints the picture I expected.

  • Squad size : 27 players
  • English players : 4 players

That’s a staggering 85.1% who are foreign.

The picture looks better if you look at the players out on loan, 33 players of which 18 (54%) are English. Better numbers, but when you consider some of the “BIG” clubs they are playing for (Chippenham Town, Forrest Green Rovers), I am not surprised at the state of English football.

But I digress. Back to rugby.

Home Nations observation

Given how strong the game is in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales I decided to look at 4 major clubs:

The numbers speak for themselves really. I honestly don’t think I need to explain any further.

The numbers certainly paint a picture, albeit bleak, you can see why the French are in such a rut. There are so many things that need to be addressed. I can think of a few issues such as capping foreign players, salary caps, exploitation of young Island players and investigating why a “scholarship” was established in a South African school.

There is just so much going on and I feel sorry for Guy Noves because he really hasn’t got much to work with now does he?


Author: Dave McBrier

Originally from South Africa, but have been living in the U.K for the last 12 years. Absolutely love everything associated with the oval shaped ball.


  1. Interesting article Dave. But putting aside percentages how many professional French players are there in total compared to every other nation. I’d guess that only England has more and therefore the foreigners excuse seems less robust for explaining French under performance.

    • Take into consideration that the RFU cooperates with the club teams, in France it is really the opposite
      For example, mid-month meeting of the national team is absurd in France, as the clubs won’t accept that their player will be taken during the week and are not available for the match preparation

      The French federation has to create a new model for the good of the national team, right now there is no help to the test level of the national team

      • Exactly. It’s not so much that there are a lot of foreigners playing in France but more about the quality of player development (coaching) and coordination of the existing resources that seem to be the major issue. There are twice as many professional French players as there are Kiwis available for their respective national teams so there must be more at play for their continued underperformance.

  2. Very interesting article Dave, these are in deed alarming figures. But they are only the manifestation of a more profound problem that is formation. How can you explain so many average foreign players are recruited by Top 14, Pro D2 or even third division clubs ? Because young french players are bellow average. And if they are, coaches and how rugby is tought in France bear a huge responsability for it. The fact that even a very average samoan winger like Paul Perez can play every weekend with Toulouse shows that this great club has not formed any good winger for ages. And that is a more structural concern…

  3. Yep I agree. French team need to invest more in their grassroots and after 2019 they must fill a quota of 90 percent of french clubs must contain french players. It will help their rugby in the long run. The french have so much money to spend. I think its because their clubs aren’t concerned with how their national team preforms like in NZ or England per say. And its easier for the clubs to poach south african players.Instead of the long term investment of french rugby players.Its simple:

    1. Fill the 90% french player quota in french clubs rugby after 2019
    2. Invest in grassroots in France and stop poaching South African young players.
    3. Hire a national coach that will develop a team to prepare for 2023 and 2027 world cup.

    And only then will french rugby be great again.

    • I think they could also put a proper salary cap in place, and properly enforce it. Owners might go for it as a way of keeping costs down. They could then say only 80% of French qualified players’ salaries count towards the cap, with a further 20% discount for academy products. French teams would then fill their squads with French academy products and sprinkle some stardust on top, which is what we all want.

  4. Great stats mate, excellently argued points. I wonder what the numbers are for the international team itself? France are starting to become known for their manipulation of the residency rule to get south sea islanders into their national teams. I know everyone does it, but I’d love to see who is taking it the furthest. Surely if you have a policy of converting foreign imports, that has to damage the rugby development lower down?


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