If only everything in English club rugby’s garden was as impressively flawless as the pitch at Franklin’s Gardens. There are less smooth billiard tables and the stage is perfectly set for a spectacular 250th east Midlands derby between Northampton and Leicester. “It’s the biggest game of the year,” murmurs Lewis Ludlam, the Saints captain, as his side prepare to go toe to toe with the defending Premiership champions.
Sadly, though, there can be no avoiding the financial undercurrents currently destabilising two of their neighbours. As the pips squeak louder at Worcester and Wasps, so the mood of the whole English game darkens.
Any league is only as strong as its weakest link and, right now, the Premiership feels as vulnerable as at any stage since Richmond and London Scottish vanished off the professional radar in March 1999.
Ludlam, as an England squad member and loyal one-club man, feels keenly for those fellow pros stuck in the middle. Grateful as he is for the efforts of Northampton’s chief executive, Mark Darbon, to keep Saints’ players updated on their club’s own secure position, he cannot imagine how Worcester counterparts like Ted Hill must be feeling. “It’s a horrible thought,” he says, flatly. “All Ted should have to worry about is performing at the weekend.Read more on theguardian.com