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Mapletoft defends Quins model as Test call-ups bite

Mark Mapletoft insists Harlequins remain committed to developing England-qualified players despite claiming his side’s trophy chances have been hammered by Test call-ups.

The Rugby Paper can reveal that the Harlequins academy has retained its place as one of England’s most fertile production lines, with EQP figures for this season showing 79.2 per cent of players in match day squads have been qualified for Red Rose duty.

Bath lead the way on 80.3 per cent – well above the Premiership’s average of 72.4 per cent – but Quins’ failure to lift silverware has prompted criticism from irate fans who, despite regular England call-ups for stars including Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw, Joe Marler, Jack Clifford and Kyle Sinckler, accuse the club of going backwards.

But Harlequins coach Mapletoft, below, hit back: “There’s a cycle to this and at the moment the dynamics have changed; the EPS agreement and the salary cap increases are against us and we’re working through it.

“Harlequins are in a position where the success we’ve had in relation to results, winning trophies and developing England players, who are regularly called-up, is creating a scenario where it isn’t working for us.

“In terms of top four finishes, qualifying for the Champions Cup or winning a trophy, we’ve failed. But the club works to a proven academy model that helps to support England and we will keep buying into that.

“I understand why supporters are impatient but they don’t understand the parameters we work to. We are not as competitive as we’d like but we’re addressing where we need to improve to win trophies.”

Injury-plagued Bath have seen their revitalised academy come to the rescue, with coach Toby Booth saying: “A bad situation has turned into a positive because it’s provided opportunities for emerging talent. Zach Mercer and Levi Douglas are just two of those and that’s important to us.”

Statistics show that ten of the 12 Premiership clubs have fielded more English-qualified players this season than last, with only Northampton (down 3%) and Bristol, who last year were in the Championship, showing marginal decreases.

Of the 276 players available to take the field on any match weekend, an average of 198 have been England-qualified, with Wasps showing huge improvement having boosted their EQP quota to 76.7 per cent.

NEALE HARVEY

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