London - 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
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.
"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.