Another week and another switch back to Europe, with the World Cup making a mess of the season for all, with clubs and players facing a disruptive programme of games.
You can understand the clubs that supplied England with their World Cup players feeling a little nervous about starting a season without their stars, but effectively condensing the entire Premiership into what is
virtually the second half of the season seems daft.
With just seven games played out of the 22 that make up the standard Premiership season before the new year, it leaves 15 games of Premiership rugby to be played by the clubs that don’t make the play-offs before the end of the season.
If the games were played weekly from the start of the new year it will take until April 18 before the last game kicks off. Add in the European Cups and internationals and you can see what a busy schedule there is for the best players.
Although many of the senior England players have had a break post World Cup, it will still be a tough year for them, particularly if following that final defeat they get the dreaded call from Eddie Jones.
It’s not the ‘come and train with England’ call, it’s the ‘you are the best player in your position so I am going to rest you for this season’s Six Nations and bring you back in the autumn’ call that signals the end of your international career, which all players dread.
After a World Cup there are always changes to the squad with some of the older players moved to the side as the coach starts his plans for the next four-year cycle.
The regional competitions – the Five/Six Nations and Rugby Championship – used to dominate the game, and to a certain extent still do for players who know that only consistent performances in those games will see them selected for a World Cup and the potential rewards that brings.
There was a time when winning a Grand Slam was enough to get the England captain an OBE, known by the rest of the team as the Other
Buggers’ Efforts, but now only a World Cup win will do.
Failure in Japan will have its consequences for some of the players, even though it is a team game that relies on all doing their job, including the coaches.
It is usually the older players that are put out to grass at this time as the hope is that a new ‘star’ is just around the corner waiting for his chance to shine.
I hate to say it but I think Dan Cole will carry the can for the team failing just as Paul Rendall, aka The Judge, did in 1990 when we lost to Scotland in a ‘winner takes all’ Grand Slam game at Murrayfield.
It was a game that as much as I hate to say it, Scotland deservedly won with a better all-round team performance.
England toured Argentina the following summer with Rendall told he wasn’t to tour as he was the best loosehead prop in England and should take the opportunity to rest before next season’s World Cup.
Instead England coach, Geoff Cooke, took two potential replacements for The Judge – Mark Linnett and Victor Ubogu – along with a young man just out of the U21 squad to gain experience, Jason Leonard.
Needless to say the rest is history with Linnett and Ubogu failing to make the grade on the loosehead side and young Leonard’s rise to take the role for the next 114 caps.
Rendall got just one more cap coming on as a substitute in the ‘91 World Cup match against Italy, ending his playing career in the final training session before the World Cup final in ‘91 with a torn Achilles tendon.
Cole unfortunately is likely to be singled out as having a problem against The Beast, Tendei Mtawarira, where it was the whole pack that collectively failed as was proven to a degree when various changes were made with Cole remaining on the pitch and the scrum improving.
Jones will no doubt look to ‘refresh’ his team going into this year’s Six Nations particularly as he said that his failure to do so before the final resulted in the team’s poor display.
With a contract that runs for only another two years, Jones will want to have a successful Six Nations so he will have the choice of extending to the next RWC or moving on, rather than being let go at the end of his current deal.
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