The England forward considers the tough decisions ahead
Richard de Carpentier on the uncertainty facing sevens players
While we have provisional restart dates for some 15s leagues, there is pervading uncertainty over any return to World Rugby Sevens Series action. And with decisions yet to be made on the viability of tournaments in London, Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore in coming months, some athletes are weighing up big decisions on their future.
England sevens prop Richard de Carpentier’s contract is up this month, after which there is the option of a rolling deal for as long as the Government’s furlough scheme lasts. With no set plans for the return of international sevens and unions holding on to assess that landscape, players like de Carpentier have to consider whether to take up other job options in 15s or hang on until the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021.
This week he put out clips of his recent highlights from the sevens circuit, to show what he is capable of.
“I completely get where the RFU are coming from, not being able to say whether we’ve got contracts next year, because why would they contract us?” the ex-Worcester back-row says. “It’s like having a lawnmower for an astroturf pitch – it doesn’t make sense. If there’s nothing to do, if there are no tournaments next year or there’s no return date, I get why the RFU aren’t contracting us.
“When World Rugby have made a decision then the RFU can make a call. It’s tough for them but it’s tough for us as well because I can’t put wheels into motion to try to find anywhere properly for next year, being as I want to stay in sevens because of the Olympics.
“If I could go and sign somewhere (in 15s), then it might limit my chance of playing sevens, therefore limiting my chance to be selected for the Olympics, which to be honest is the main goal for me.
“I’ve got to find something that works around that. But then who knows? And obviously all clubs are in different spots, everyone’s suffering because of the coronavirus. There’s not a lot out there.”
At the start of the season, England boss Simon Amor and de Carpentier agreed that this would be 30-year-old’s last season in sevens, with a final hurrah in Tokyo before exploring options in 15s. Moreover, he describes the build-up to the next Olympic Games as like the Last Dance for a group of England players that have been through a lot together on the circuit.
However, as it stands, de Carpentier is seriously considering any option he is approached with. De Carpentier adds, pragmatically: “If the Olympics wasn’t on the horizon I would be leaving sevens this year, definitely. But that’s the goal.”
Explaining his current thinking, he adds: “We’ve just had a kid. I’ve got a five-month-old baby. So it’s not the best time to be on a rolling contract that can be ended or extended. It is tough and I’m sure there are people in tougher positions, but it’s weighing up how much the Olympics means to you, to try stay around sevens, versus needing a job for next year.
“I might try and get 15s gig for six months and then whenever World Rugby decide when sevens comes back then I’d try and get back to the sevens. But it’s a real tough situation to be in – for everyone.”
If clarity does not arrive in sevens the dream scenario, he makes clear, would be to take on a gig as a back-rower in 15s, with the US and France of interest if nothing comes in England. He would want guarantees that he could return to the sevens fold in order to prepare meaningfully for possible Olympic selection.
Once again de Carpentier reiterates that the current crisis is no one’s fault, and he appreciates why the programme is where it is at the moment. It is just that life decisions must be made eventually.
“I completely get where the RFU are coming from,” repeats de Carpentier, who is currently living and training on the Isle of Wight. “They are a business at the end of the day. They’ve got to look after themselves and there’s no point paying people just to sit around for a year. But at the same time, this group of players has been around for six, seven years, and we don’t really break the bank with the salary – I know everything’s relative, but in comparison (to others).
“The disparity in wages comparing 15s to sevens is massive. Absolutely massive. I think some of our top players could get signed at the drop of a hat in the Premiership because the (sevens) wage bill is so low.
“It’s a tough one because in 15s you can speak to other clubs and negotiate with other clubs. Say I’m at Worcester and I’m playing really well, I say ‘Gloucester have offered me X, can you match this?’ And then it drives it up. But with sevens if you’re playing well for England, ‘well done’. You’re doing well but you’re not going to go and sign for Scotland or Wales.”
De Carpentier could well hold on with the sevens set-up and a trip to Tokyo is a massive motivator. The global crisis brought on by coronavirus has thrown up a lot of uncertainty, painting unions into corners. Big decisions take time.
Whenever the Sevens Series does return, things could be very different anyway – this is a circuit where air travel, switching hotels, eating at buffets and inter-mingling with 15 other teams is simply part of any tournament weekend.
In the lead up to the Olympics, fans of Team GB will simply want as many prospects as possible to be healthy, sevens-honed and available for consideration. De Carpentier hopes he is in the running.
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