Rugby Union: New England opt not to participate at Country Championships

New England have joined Central North in only fielding a women’s team at this years Country Championships.

New England president David Clifton said the zone sought expressions of interest from players for the open men and colts teams but received “little to no response”.

“It is a great pity but if players are not interested then there is little we can do about it,” Clifton said.

“Many of the country zones, including New England and Central North have expressed to Country Rugby their disappointment in the current format and the problems in attracting players.”

“There is no real pathway to higher selection which makes it unattractive to players, unlike it was years ago where country players were selected on merit from the championships through to state and national teams.”

That the championships fall in the university holidays didn’t help. The accommodation situation, with players to be housed in tents, and the distance to Warren also did “nothing to assist us in attracting players”, Clifton said.

“The distance adds an extra day on either end and those players who are working are just not interested in taking two more days holiday,” he said.

“Next year we are told there will be a different format so the zones are waiting to see if such a format is able to attract the participation of our players for us to get back involved.”

The Lions and Kookaburras opens sides were both set to play in the Richardson Shield, their withdrawals leaving potentially only three teams to fight it out.