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Probyn column: The week that was for Eddie Jones and Leicester Tigers

George Ford - Leicester Tigers

So Eddie Jones names his first training squad for the World Cup and instantly the careers of many established England players are automatically brought to an end – as far as the rugby media are concerned.

Leaving out some of the ‘old boys’ for fresh young talents has been seen by many as a ‘changing of the old guard’ but nothing could be further from the truth.

Jones has said he will not pick his final squad until August and is therefore experimenting with a new group of players to see if they can bring something special to the party, while at the same time giving his established stars some extra rest time.

Jones is a shrewd operator who knows how to play the media by creating uncertainty inside and outside his group of established players. By keeping all the players ‘on their toes’ and not being complacent in their selection, can only be a good thing, particularly when trying to get the best performance from those players who will eventually get picked.

The one thing that we can be certain about is that we will all be uncertain about who will make the final World Cup squad until the day Jones names it.

Uncertainty is a word for the road that rugby is about to take, as Leicester one of the most famous English clubs, takes a leap into the unknown.

Over the years of professional rugby there have been many clubs that have changed ownership but mostly it has been for a ‘peppercorn’ sum, as the owner either grew tired of financing a dream, or died.

This time it is different, as Leicester’s current management board have decided to test the market for new investors by offering the club up for sale.

Although on paper Leicester don’t have a single owner, they have been guided over the years by multimillionaire chairman Peter Tom, who in recent years has been slowly withdrawing from his dominate role at the club. This sale, it appears,would be his chance to finally breakaway by passing the reins over to a new owner/chairman.

The potential £60m price tag is more or less in line with the average club valuation placed on the league by CVC, but personally I would have expected a far higher price for Tigers as they are by far the best supported club in the Premiership on a weekly basis.

To sell at this time also does seem a little strange given the fact that there hasn’t yet been any chance for CVC to work their magic and increase the financial viability of the Premiership, which in turn would increase the value of its shareholder clubs.

If successful, the sale could prompt other Premiership club owner/shareholders to see this as the chance to recoup some of the money they have invested over the years. Maybe not immediately, but if CVC can start increasing revenues and thereby the club’s value, it could happen, creating an uncertain future not just for the Premiership but for the game itself.

Geordan Murphy - Leicester Tigers
For sale: Leicester Tigers should be worth more than £60m. Getty Images

Potentially, CVC may take a gamble and renew their offer to buy a controlling share of Premiership Rugby particularly if the price is right. This would lead to CVC dealing directly with the RFU on payments for use of Premiership assets (players), which could easily impact on the future finances of the whole game, especially grassroots clubs.

I had a call from a Premiership official this week telling me that I got something wrong in last week’s article.

It would appear that, as of the last professional game agreement and even though it remains highly unlikely it will ever happen, players can now be selected for the EPS and even the England team from the Championship.

When I asked if that meant from all the leagues or just the professional top two, I was told he was unsure, but definitely from the Championship and Premiership.

I must admit I hadn’t noticed any announcement about it or any actual change in policy, and it remains a fact that international players like Newcastle’s Mark Wilson still feel they have to leave their club, even if only for a season when the club is relegated, if they are to maintain their place playing for England.

Mind you, it appears I am not the only one who hadn’t noticed, as RFU director of professional rugby, Nigel Melville was also obviously unaware, otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered making what seemed a controversial statement at the time, that current England players could still be selected from Leicester if they were relegated.

As Nottingham chairman Alistair Bow outlined in his Q&A for the paper last week, there are many major problems between the Premiership and the Championship, including the fact there are no games where the two leagues compete against each other.

Without such a competition there is little chance an England coach would get to see Championship players  and be able to judge their fitness for the EPS, let alone the England team.

However, I am looking forward to Eddie Jones announcing a surprise World Cup squad including a couple of Championship playing stars. But if I am honest, I won’t be putting any money on it.

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