Eddie Jones, the England coach, will be told to be more considerate with the timing and intensity of his future training camps in a clear-the-air meeting with Premiership directors of rugby on Thursday, write Daniel Schofield for the Telegraph
Last week, three players suffered long-term injuries at the two-day camp in Brighton, with Wasps flanker Sam Jones breaking a leg in a judo session, Bath full-back Anthony Watson fracturing his jaw and Exeter Chiefs wing Jack Nowell suffering a torn quad muscle. All three will miss England’s four-Test Old Mutual Wealth autumn series that begins against South Africa on Nov 12.
A number of other players returned from the south coast to their clubs battered and bruised leading to a war of words between Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union over what was permitted within the camps.
Tempers have appeared to have calmed since then with directors of rugby such as Wasps’ Dai Young striking a more conciliatory note. Young and Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, will be at the meeting in London on Thursday, although a number of coaches, such as Leicester Tigers’ Richard Cockerill, Northampton Saints’ Jim Mallinder, Exeter’s Rob Baxter and Harlequins’ John Kingston, who met Jones on Wednesday, are unable to attend due to other commitments.
Mallinder has already told Phil Winstanley, the Premiership’s rugby director, that England coaching staff need to be more solicitous of Premiership clubs when staging camps during the middle of the season.
“That is certainly my feeling,” Mallinder said. “For England it is getting players together and I guess they are running their camps in isolation to what is happening elsewhere. We know from a club point of view that we are in a series of six really tough games and there are players who have played on a Saturday doing things on a Monday and Tuesday that we would never ask them to do.
“I don’t think that necessarily means that we should be running or dictating what England do in camps or sessions. It would be certainly nice if the England management took us into consideration.
“We had four people there and two [Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes] didn’t train. That didn’t affect them at all. Two of the lads [Teimana Harrison and Paul Hill] had only been on the bench the week before so actually they went into the session really looking forward to it. It was very hard, very physical and they came back really tired, but actually they enjoyed it. If either of them had played 80 minutes the week before then I think we would be having a different conversation.”
Mallinder also confirmed that Hartley, the England captain, had resumed live scrummaging practice, although he would still appear to be unlikely to figure in Northampton’s Champions Cup match against Montpellier on Saturday.
Yet the clubs’ frustration is not fixed on a single target. Baxter, the Exeter head coach, was angry at how Nowell’s thigh was initially misdiagnosed by England medical staff and questioned whether the players were being correctly managed physically. McCall, meanwhile, had far less issue with Jones and his methods than he did with how Premiership Rugby had allowed the camp to be staged 10 days before their Champions Cup group stage match against Toulon this Saturday. “My issue was with the timing of the first camp,” McCall said. “I’d have preferred it to be at a different time to allow us to play the way we wanted to for the Champions Cup.
“It’s for Premiership Rugby to answer the question about the lack of constraints and the content. It’s up to Eddie what happens in the camp because that’s what is in the agreement. We can’t blame England for everything. They’re entitled to do what they think is right in these camps.
“This shouldn’t be a fight. The best thing for both parties is for it to be a cooperative relationship and there is no reason why it won’t be.”
Young has also extended an olive branch, saying there should not be a “big brother” in the relationship between club and country.
In some ways, it is a mark of how far that alliance between the RFU and the Premiership has improved that this type of flashpoint has become relatively rare under Jones and his predecessor Stuart Lancaster, whereas once outright hostility was the default setting between club and country.
Cockerill, the Leicester director of rugby, remembers those feuds all too well and also made the point that the players bear some responsibility for overexerting themselves in an effort to impress Jones. “I’ve been involved with it for the last 10 years, I’ve had these arguments with every England coach,” Cockerill said. “There’s no point having the argument because they [the players] will go. To be fair the set-up there has been really positive, they’re well coached, the conditioning is good, the medical is good, people are going to get injured.
“They all want to play against South Africa. They’re going to push themselves, they want to be in the mix, they’re going to under-report their aches and pains. That’s what they do. I was one of those blokes.”
What’s at stake on Thursday? | By Gavin Mairs
What is the meeting about?
Premiership Rugby are hosting a meeting between the club’s directors of rugby and England head coach Eddie Jones at Heathrow. It was a scheduled meeting – one of four each quarter – being hosted by PRL’s director of rugby Phil Winstanley. A number of clubs will not be attending however because of commitments ahead of the start of the European competitions this weekend.
What is on the agenda?
The get-togethers are a designed to improve communication and relationships between the England management team and the clubs over the release and training of players. The fall-out following last week’s England training camp in Brighton will be top of the agenda however, given the injuries to Sam Jones, Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell and Premiership Rugby’s criticism of the intensity of the sessions.
What the two parties hope to achieve?
Some of the clubs who are not able to attend are understood to have sent their thoughts about last week’s camp to Winstanley for discussion with Jones. If the criticism of the England camp last week was the first sign of discontent under the Jones regime, there is a strong desire between both parties to make amends.
Are the clubs happy with Premiership Rugby?
While Premiership Rugby pointed the finger at the England management last Thursday over the intensity of the camp, several directors of rugby, including Saracens’ Mark McCall, are frustrated that not enough consideration was taken to agreeing the timing of the camps in the negotiations between Premiership Rugby and the RFU. Premiership Rugby could also be forced to give answers today.