Doncaster scrum-half Tom James is primed for a move to Northampton – the latest in a growing list of players making the step up from the second-tier to the Premiership.
James, 25, joined Doncaster from Bedford in 2017. The former England Students player had previously been linked with Wasps, Gloucester and Newcastle.
Team-mate, centre Pete Lucock, is set to join him in the top-flight having signed for Newcastle, whose promotion to the Premiership appears a formality.
The fluid pathway between the divisions makes a mockery of the RFU’s claims the Championship isn’t working as a player development vehicle, the rationale behind their decision to cut funding which has prompted talk of legal action against the governing body.
One Championship DoR said: “I’ve had two Premiership directors of rugby call me and say their biggest recruitment tool now – apart from their big players – is the Championship.
“What happens to all that talent now if more clubs go part-time? There are so many players who wouldn’t have got to where they are now without playing Championship rugby.”
There has since been a softening of the RFU’s stance with RFU CEO Bill Sweeney saying the cuts could be phased in.
“We have gone to them and said ‘we can reschedule these cuts over a period of two years, and work with you in terms of how to how to manage that situation’,” Sweeney said. “The other thing we said is ‘let’s work together as a group and figure out what is the role of the Championship’.
“We haven’t just cut this to save £3m. We’ve cut it because we are not clear of the benefit we’re getting from that spending.”
Currently the RFU pay the clubs about £534,000 per year, but that will drop to a around £400,000 per club from 2022.