The Scottish Rugby Union has accused England’s top-flight body of acting “inappropriately” by threatening to withhold players from international duty in a row over a disputed medical bill.
The five Scotland players, including captain Greig Laidlaw, have met up with their team-mates for a three-day training camp ahead of the autumn Test programme after World Rugby stepped in at the weekend.
The case will be heard by the global governing body next month but the SRU has expressed disappointment over Premiership Rugby Limited’s actions and claims it has done everything possible to settle the dispute, which involves a former international, including twice offering to go through an independent medical arbitration process.
A statement read: “The outstanding medical case cited by PRL — relating to one player dating from 2013 — has no connection to any Scottish International currently playing in the Aviva Premiership so the decision by PRL to threaten the release of current England-based players in this context was both unhelpful and inappropriate.”
An SRU spokesman added: “We usually have a good working relationship with PRL and so this tactic by them was both surprising and unnecessary.
“The case in dispute is historical. We have repeatedly offered to have an independent medical panel review the specifics of this case, but this has not been followed up by PRL and its club.As a union we take our responsibilities for player welfare seriously and have respected the necessary processes throughout.”
The statement added: “Scottish Rugby has not withheld fees or insurance payments and the costs under dispute are in the tens of thousands, not the six figures quoted by PRL. If an independent arbitration rules that a payment is due, then Scottish Rugby will honour that ruling.”
English clubs also threatened to bar players representing Italy, Samoa and Tonga in similar disputes with the total medical and injury compensation bills in all cases said to reach £400,000.
Premiership Rugby declined to respond to the SRU statement until after World Rugby rules in November.
But, speaking on Saturday night, a spokesman said: “The dispute with the SRU over unpaid medical and salary bills caused when a Premiership Rugby player was injured on Test duty has not been settled.
“However, Premiership Rugby has been informed that World Rugby will convene a regulations committee panel in November to settle the case and, on that basis, we are prepared to show flexibility and allow for our players to join the Scotland squad.
“A similar dispute with the Italian, Samoan and Tongan unions was settled earlier in the week.”
Despite the late decision, Laidlaw had been relaxed about the dispute.
The Gloucester captain, who is joined in the squad by Exeter prop Moray Low, Harlequins wing Tim Visser and Saracens pair Duncan Taylor and Sean Maitland, said: “I was always confident that it was going to be sorted.
“Gav Scott, the team manager up here, was in constant contact with me and to be fair to Gloucester and (director of rugby) David Humphreys, they were very open and talked to me pretty much every day on what was happening.
“It was a pretty easy one for me, there was no stress around about it. It’s good to be here, international rugby is such a crucial part of the game throughout the world, so it’s important for players to be here.
“I don’t think anyone really wanted to be holding players back. We are just glad everyone has been released and we can just get on with playing rugby now.”
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