Would reducing or removing match fees protect the integrity of international rugby or merely deny players their due reward? Read this debate from our February 2022 issue


Face-off: Should international stars play Test matches for free?

YES, says the chairman of Pacific Rugby Players Welfare

The need for changes to eligibility laws and the lack of profit share amongst unions are symptoms of inequalities in our game.

And when there is money it should be going into the grass roots to keep games going – but here in Australia, a huge amount of money generated goes back into the Wallabies. And then people wonder why their community game needs saving?

It’s time to reassess what our expectations of international rugby should be. With my Pacific Island head on, Test rugby has become an extension of professionalism, and it’s just like club rugby. So why not let the clubs worry about paying players and keep Internationals pure?

A lot of players see Tests as a way to make a living as opposed to honouring the essence of what international rugby has always been. We need to protect the purity of playing for your country – for the love of your culture.

Face-off: Should international stars play Test matches for free? Dan Leo

Dan Leo playing for Wasps in 2007. “Let the clubs pay the players,” he says (Getty Images)

The decision to choose your first Test nation, often a Tier One nation, is made when you’re young and poor. The encouraging thing is that we may see more pure pride in the jersey after recent changes, but we can still have a team whose players earn close to £30,000 for a game facing someone who gets a few hundred.

Let the clubs deal with money. They can pay the players. But when it comes to lining up for Internationals, we need to protect the integrity and the purity of that decision, to make it a special one. We should start with reduced fees.


NO, says the chairman of Rugby Players Scotland

The rugby world is one of increasing separation between the poorer nations and those with commercial clout. This separation is commonly defined by a comparison of match fees between Test nations, often cited as a significant, if not the only, reason for the migration of top players towards wealthy nations.

However, a reduction of match fees for larger nations would simply amount to exploitation of different, if not all, players.

The players are the product that generates the financial success of larger nations. This, combined with the increased pressure and scrutiny associated with Test rugby, means a player must be compensated for their role in powering a commercial machine.

Ireland v Italy

Worthy of recompense? 13-man Italy put in a heroic effort against Ireland last Sunday (Federugby/Getty)

Likewise, elimination of International match fees would not stop a procession of players to wealthy nations. While match fees are easily highlighted, commonly the predominant reason that players move country is to provide for their families.

This move rarely starts with a guarantee (or even a dream) of playing for another international side. Rather, it’s an offer to be paid to play club rugby that will often be the catalyst for the move.

While the aim of reducing the current financial gulf between nations is laudable, World Rugby removing International match fees is a worst-case scenario – neither preventing player migration nor rewarding players for the commercial success they create.

Tim Swinson of Saracens

Tim Swinson carries for Saracens during a Premiership match against Wasps this season (Getty Images)

Face-off: Should international stars play Test matches for free? We want to know what YOU think. Email your views to rugbyworldletters@futurenet.com

This debate first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Rugby World.