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Vunipola warns that players could strike over rugby's punishing schedule

The Saracens and England player missed the recent British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand through injury.

ENGLAND’S BILLY VUNIPOLA has warned that players could go on strike if rugby bosses fail to reduce the number of matches played over the gruelling season.

In an interview with The Times on Friday, the Saracens No.8, who missed the recent British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand through injury, said governing bodies did not appear to understand the punishing schedule’s impact on players.

Billy Vunipola at the final whistle Billy Vunipola pictured at the end of Saracens' Champions Cup semi-final win against Munster in April. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Everyone complains that they keep pushing the salary cap up but we need more players,” he said. “It’s not about money, it’s about the toil we’re put through.”

Vunipola, 24, said Saracens looked after him well but added that strike action by players might be the only way to force Premiership executives to address the problem.

“Something is going to give,” he said. “Something might happen where we follow the NFL or NBA, where they had a lockout. I’m not saying I’m going to start it, but I feel like something needs to happen for the suits to realise these guys are serious.

“It comes down to how much we play,” he said. “My body could not handle it. I might think I’m strong and tough but I’m not. I just got worn down. The suits are always talking about it but they have never played nine months in today’s rugby. It’s something I would love to change — play less.”

Top players can be involved in a dozen international matches as well as potentially 30 or more club fixtures over the course of a season.

With only one match played a week, that can mean very little respite for players usually starting their season in early September and not finishing until the end of the June tests in the southern hemisphere.

– © AFP 2017

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