Northampton's Chris Boyd will not risk player safety as he hits out at EPCR over prop injury crisis response

Teenager Emmanuel Iyogun is Saints only fit loosehead but Boyd was angered by EPCR chiefs' slow response to bringing in a reinforcement

Northampton director of rugby Chris Boyd has criticised European Professional Club Rugby’s sluggishness regarding the club’s prop injury crisis that could have serious safety ramifications.

Teenager rookie Emmanuel Iyogun is the Saints’ only fit loosehead for the Champions Cup quarter-final after Exeter Chiefs after the club’s four senior props suffered injuries. With no tighthead able to cover loosehead, Iyogun would have to play 80 minutes against an international prop pairing of Harry Williams and Tomas Francis unless Northampton are granted dispensation to sign another player.

Northampton first contacted EPCR seven days ago about bringing in an emergency loosehead which is past the deadline for signings. EPCR are concerned about the precedent of breaking one of their regulations despite tearing up much of their rulebook to allow cup-tied players to play for new clubs when the season resumed after lockdown. 

Boyd made clear that he was not prepared to risk Iyogun’s welfare by playing him for 80 minutes which will mean a showpiece match going to uncontested scrums and Northampton going down to 14 men. “What I’m absolutely not prepared to do and it became very obvious when we tried to convert our tightheads, is risk someone’s safety,” Boyd said. “While the integrity of the fixture and the competition is critical, the No 1 priority is the safety of the person that has to do that.

“We would be hopeful that common sense would prevail. No-one taking the p**s here. If it was a winger or full-back, you would just have to make do, but there’s a considerable safety issue here. Given that this dialogue started seven days ago, the wheels are moving pretty slowly.”

The Daily Telegraph understands that Northampton have a signing lined up and that Exeter Chiefs would have no objection to them registering a player at late notice. Even then it will leave the new player just one full training session to get up to speed. 

The four senior loosehead props are all out injured for considerable periods. Club captain Alex Waller was already recuperating from a snapped achilles while Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi and Nick Auterac both suffered serious injuries against Bristol on September 8.

At this point, Northampton contacted EPCR regarding the possibility of registering another prop, however worse was to come when their last remaining senior loosehead, Francois van Wyk, departed the East Midlands derby against Leicester on Sunday with a knee injury. Boyd’s attempt to convert a tighthead were “spectacularly unsuccessful”.

That leaves Northampton with 19-year-old Iyogun, who only recently converted to prop from the back row and made his debut replacing Van Wyk against Leicester. “That concerned us because Manny is a 19-year-old boy who played all his football at number eight, and had never really played in a men's scrum before,” Boyd said. “He had a couple of games for Loughborough University. He is is going to be a good kid, but he is very, very inexperienced.”