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Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 06:52 GMT 07:52 UK
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Rugby professionalism timeline
Rugby union turns professional postSouth Africa World Cup
Fired by the success of the 1995 World Cup media moguls throw money at the sport and the IRB declares rugby union professional. The change comes halfway through the northern hemisphere 199596 season. In September Sir John Hall becomes involved with Newcastle Falcons bringing in Rob Andrew Inga Tuigamala and Tony Underwood among others. The Heineken Cup rugby's Champions League is launched. No English or Scottish teams take part.
Money men swoop into England while Super 10 becomes Super 12
In the southern hemisphere Super 10 evolves into Super 12 and becomes fully professional with Auckland Blues taking the title. Back in the northern hemisphere Richmond backed by Ashley Levett turn pro while Saracens are bought by Nigel Wray. England are thrown out of Five Nations after an pound87.5m deal with BSkyB but are reinstated. English clubs threaten to quit RFU competitions in a spat over structure of the game while in Ireland the first player contracts are signed. Rugby league giants Wigan and leading union side Bath play the first crosscode encounter with each side winning their own code with ease. Toulouse beat Cardiff in front of 22000 at the Arms Park to claim the first Heineken Cup title.
Restructured Four Nations announced without England
A Four Nations is announced in the growing dispute with England over its contract with Sky over the northern hemisphere's biggest rugby spectacle. England are eventually allowed back into the tournament following lengthy talks.
Scottish sides merge to create two pro super districts
The Zurich Prem introduces a pound1.8m salary cap for clubs as combined club debt reaches pound20m while the RFU reveal losses of pound10m. England are evicted from 19989 Five Nations before being invited back 24 hours later. The Scots launch two professional Super Districts Edinburgh Reivers and Glasgow Caledonians. A British League is mooted while in Wales Cardiff and Swansea are heavily fined after pulling out of the Welsh Premier League for the 19989 season. The first a merger of Edinburgh and the Borders side from the traditional heartland of Scottish rugby the second a combination of Glasgow plus the Caledonia region. Bath become the first English team to win the Heineken Cup but English clubs do not play in the 199899 tournament the following season.
Benefactors start to pull their cash out of rugby union
Ashley Levett Sir John Hall and Tony Tiarks pull their cash out of Richmond Newcastle and London Scottish. Richmond and London Scots are now both in London Division One while Newcastle remain in the top flight. BarrieJon Mather becomes first British rugby league international who learned his trade in the 13man code to be picked for England's union side. Australia win union's first pro World Cup Ulster become the first Irish province to win Heineken Cup.
Jason Robinson switches to union Italy join 6 Nations
The RFU signs one of rugby league's biggest stars Jason Robinson as they start building for the 2003 World Cup. The sporting body combines with Premiership side Sale to agree terms with the player who rapidly makes his way into the England national side. Also in that year Italy are a new addition to the expanded Six Nations championship.
Celtic League formed
After previous seasons of infighting the Celtic nations finally unite to form a Celtic League. Nine Welsh clubs two Scottish teams and four Irish provinces officially form the league on 17 August.
Wales nearly strike Burnout addressed for the first time
Wales' players nearly strike ahead of the Six Nations game against England frustrated by the perceived lack of progress by the WRU in agreeing to a new structure for Welsh professional club rugby. Captain Scott Quinnell and his players eventually agree to play the game and are beaten 5010. In Scotland the Borders become the third professional regional team in the country. A twoday conference is held for the first time into player burnout September.
Wales turn nine pro clubs into five regions England win World Cup
On April Fools' Day the Welsh Rugby Union agrees a deal over funding to combine their nine pro clubs into five regions. The Dragons Blues Warriors Ospreys and Scarlets are born in July Celtic League switches to proper home and away format ditching playoff system. England win the World Cup beating Australia 2017 in a dramatic final. Scottish Rugby Union gets in management consultants to help shake up game in Scotland. SRU chief executive Bill Watson is sacked.
Wasps dominate Europe while Warriors fold
Welsh domestic rugby takes a dent after Leighton Samuel pulls out of backing the Celtic Warriors in June. The Welsh Rugby Union takes the chance to cut the Welsh regions to just four. Wasps are crowned the kings of Europe after beating Toulouse at Twickenham. A week later they win the Zurich Championship. Francis Baron quits as chief executive of England Rugby Limited ERL while Graeme Cattermole resigns from his position as chairman of RFU management board.
Player fears come to the fore for Rugby Football Union
Rugby Football Union completes an injury and training audit following growing fears over player burnout. England suffer wholesale injuries with just two of their World Cup winners starting their final Six Nations game. Clubs are ripped apart by injuries Bath at one stage having 23 players unavailable for selection. Commercially Leicester who had crowds of 400 in the early 1970s announce plans to move from the 16815 capacity Welford Road into 32500 allseater Walkers Stadium.
Investigation into player burnout. Super 12 turns to Super 14
In the southern hemisphere the Super 12 turns into Super 14 with Australia and South Africa adding a team apiece. The Zurich Premiership enjoys a rise in the salary cap to pound2.25m for the 20056 season. The Professional Rugby Players Association moves into the second year of its threeyear investigation into player burnout. PRA chief Damian Hopley raises fears over the players' futures.
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PROFESSIONALISM 10 YEARS ON
Rugby hit by huge injury epidemic
Players warn of burnout
Full Premiership injury list
Issues threatening to split game
How players have got bigger
What our investigation found
Players rep warns of revolt
Club physio on injury toll
Dallaglio reveals burnout fears
What the fans think
Key figures on then and now
Sport on mobiles/PDAs
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