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Yarde’s move to Sale raises questions about rugby transfers

ByRuaidhri Power

Nov 12, 2017

On 1st November, English winger Marland Yarde moved to Sale Sharks on a 3-year deal from fellow Aviva Premiership side Harlequins.

The move seems to be a sensible one for Yarde and Harlequins, as the 13-times England capped winger was said to have been unsettled at the club and was dropped from the Quins’ squad to face London Wasps in the Champions Cup after missing training in October.

Harlequins’ Director of Rugby, John Kingston, said that the decision to sell Yarde was “in the best interest” of the club. This suggestion seems to be a reasonable one, as the player did not seem happy to play for them. Kingston went on to say that he is trying to build a “positive environment and culture at Harlequins” and unhappy players who refuse to train clearly do not help this.

For Sale, the move seems a slightly strange one, as they already have a wealth of wingers, such as Denny Solomona, Byron McGuigan and Josh Charnley, who are performing well on a weekly basis.

Sale boss Steve Diamond says that Yarde is an exciting player with his best years ahead of him and that he will “suit our attacking style of play”. With 18 tries for Harlequins since 2014, this is undoubtedly true, yet Yarde’s disciplinary problems off the field are well known and this puts the move in a different light.

Ex-England and Harlequins winger Ugo Monye summarised Yarde’s situation well by claiming that whilst he would surely like to stay at Quins, the move to Sale is a fantastic opportunity to get a fresh start and that “his biggest obstacle is going to be himself”.

Only time will tell whether Yarde can rectify his behaviour off the field and fulfil his undoubtedly high potential for Sale Sharks, yet this move highlights a more general issue in the world of rugby: transfers.

Unlike football, rugby union does not have a specified transfer window in which clubs can buy and sell players. Instead, negotiations can take place at any time and players can move between clubs at any point during the year.

As a high-profile player, Marland Yarde transferring between two competitive Premiership sides mid-season has the potential to cause great disturbances in both of the clubs involved and the league itself.

With 62 caps for Harlequins, Yarde was an integral member of the squad and the decision to allow him to leave will surely have repercussions for the team, as a spot on the wing is now open.

Solomona and McGuigan have been scoring very frequently for Sale this season, with figures such as Charnley and Arron Reed waiting in the wings. The acquisition of Yarde may therefore send a negative message to these players in the Sale Sharks squad.

More broadly, the shape of the league this season could be changed by this transfer. Depending upon the impact that Yarde has, his transfer could have a direct impact on the final Aviva Premiership table.

This raises the issue of whether this is fair on the players within the respective clubs and the other clubs in the league.

Whilst this is a sensible move for Yarde and Harlequins, it may generally be a disruptive one. If we take football as a case study, the regulations regarding transfers are fairly limited; the two windows in which players can move are clear and this allows teams and managers to shape their squad at the start of a season without disrupting their players or other teams in their league.

If this principle were applied to rugby, then the issues that Yarde’s transfer raises would not occur.

Despite this, the current RFU’s transfer regulations have allowed an unhappy player to leave a club that did not want to keep him, which is clearly a good thing, so there does not seem to be any reason for them to change.


Image Courtesy of Charlie

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