Saturday, 31 March 2012

Friday, 30 March 2012

Values

England squad member Calum Clark is "not a thug".


So says His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett, in handing Clark a 32 match ban after the Saints forward broke Rob Hawkins' elbow by hyper-extended the hooker’s arm in a ruck in the recent LV Cup Final against Leicester.

Apparently, despite yanking Hawkins’ arm back so violently that his elbow broke, Clark did not intend to cause injury – not the verdict of many people who witnessed the incident, it must be said.

Clark will, admittedly, miss the rest of the season and the England trip to South Africa but will be back playing in November, maybe even before Hawkins.

Here’s the thing. Last week some idiotic student was imprisoned after racially abusing Fabrice Muamba on Twitter while the Bolton footballer lay fighting for his life on the turf at White Hart Lane after suffering cardiac arrest. An odious, offensive and morally reprehensible act, yes – but imprisonable? Not, I’d suggest, where blatent acts of assault in the name of sport go relatively unpunished.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Un-bloody-believable - the RFU has only gone and made the right decision.
Yes, the world of rugby is reeling in shock at the RFU's decision to appoint Stuart Arnold Rimmer Lancaster as England's permanent Head Coach.

It was, of course, the obvious choice to make, an absolute no-brainer, the only sensible course of action to take. No one should, however, underestimate the capacity of the RFU for making an utter horlicks of all manner of things and, to give the incompetent and not-fit-for-purpose governing body its due, it did its absolute best to cock everything up.

So, despite the fact that any other decision would have been sheer lunacy, today's announcement still came as something of a shock as common sense, for once, prevailed.

Still, fair's fair - it matters not a jot how the RFU reached its decision. The fact is that it got there in the end and we have the right man in place.

Good luck to the good ship Lancaster and to all who sail with him. One thing's for sure - it won't be easy.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Red card for English refs

Interesting call by the IRB to remove England's leading referees, Wayne Barnes and Dave Pearson, from the elite list of refs for this summer's Tests.

Given the horlicks made by the pair in the Dublin last month it's hardly that surprising. The fact that Alain Rolland remains on the list, however, is nothing but a mystery. I can only assume he has some very compromisng photographs of Paddy O'Brien.

Monday, 26 March 2012

What a Relief


I am pleased to announce that the Flanker family participated fully in this weekend’s Sport Relief, completing a mile event together on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I say ‘together’ but it wasn’t quite. More on that later…

We arrived to witness the closing stages of the earlier 3 mile event, which left me feeling somewhat pathetic given that we had only opted for the one mile version. I needn’t have worried, however, as an overly energetic pre-race warm up under the supervision of a ridiculously enthusiastic fitness instructor soon rid me of any guilt or complacency. Warm up? More like 15 minutes of high impact aerobics. Thank you very much.

The family ‘plan’ had been to jog around together serenely (at least that's what I’d hoped). The Flanker family being a touch competitive in nature, however, soon put paid to that idea. From the klaxon off shot young Master F (9) like a greyhound from the traps, hotly pursued by his overweight bulldog of a father. For 300 yards or so the bulldog was just about in contention but, with young Master F showing no signs of slowing down, I soon realised I would be requiring the services of the hovering St. John’s Ambulence volunteers if I didn’t slow down to my more familiar plod and before long I was being overtaken by young Miss F (10) and then by Mrs F and then by most of the rest of the field.

When I eventually plodded over the finishing line, a tad short of the world record, I was informed that Master F had managed to finish the race 5th, which he may have mentioned once or twice for the remainder of the day.

All in all good fun though, and the start of yet another fitness comeback campaign…

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Oh dear

Whoever ends up in charge of England certainly has his work cut out. Not only are 2 members of the Elite Playing Squad – Dylan Hartley and Callum Clarke – facing long bans if found guilty of serious on-field offences, scrum half Danny Care is in trouble again.

Care has been arrested, questioned and bailed by West Yorkshire Police following an alleged sex assault on a woman in Leeds in the early hours of Sunday 4th March, having already accepted a police caution for being drunk and disorderly on the very same night following his arrest for urinating outside a hotel.

There must come a point where enough is enough, when it’s time to give up waiting for the penny to drop. Care must now be perilously close to being thrown out of The Last Chance Saloon.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Six Nations 2012 – The Aftermath


So, now it's all over where does this year’s Six Nations leave the participants?

Wales
3 Grand Slams in 8 years is impressive indeed and Wales are clearly in a very good place right now. Let’s not forget, however, that in between there have been some pretty fallow periods and Gatland, although lauded right now, hasn’t always made the right calls. Australia in June will be the acid test for this team, after which they face losing Gatland to the Lions for 12 months. Their utter reliance on Adam Jones is also something that Gatland, Edwards and co will have to address.

England
A squad united in self belief, a bunch of rookies visibly growing in stature and a pack that has rediscovered its mojo – it’s all good for England at the moment. Or is it? Never underestimate the capacity of the RFU for cock-up and catastrophe – get the decision on who should be head coach wrong and the whole pack of cards could come tumbling down. Travelling to South Africa without England’s no. 1 hooker will be the least of the new head coach’s problems.

Ireland
Given the closest of results against Wales and France it is conceivable that Ireland could have been arriving at Twickenham with the Grand Slam at stake. The result at Twickenham should, however, lay any such notion to rest. The Irish have discovered that the backline can still play a bit (although cannot defend) without O'Driscoll, but have also found out that the pack struggle to function effectively without O'Connell. Time, then, to rebuild but a test series against New Zealand is hardly the place to begin.

France
Oh dear. For the most part the France we saw was of the Tongan defeat variety rather than the RWC Final version. Monsieur Saint-Andre got this tournament badly wrong selectorially, seeking to rely on old lags having one last hurrah rather than injecting new blood. The selections of Dupuy and Beauxis, in particular, were misguided and conservative and a betrayal of French rugby tradition. That said, a fly half, an openside and a willingness to have a go is probably all this French team needs.

Italy
The usual fayre from Italy – heavy on perspiration and light on inspiration. Enough to see off the Scots but no one else. I can’t help thinking that continuing to rely on journeymen from the southern hemisphere is getting Italy nowhere fast. If Brunel is going to move Italy forward he has to bring in younger players from Italian development squads. A decent young fly-half and they’d be competitive – not worldbeaters, perhaps, but competitive.

Scotland
Taxi for Mr Robinson! There is only so long that you can keep pointing to decent performances in the face of defeat after defeat and arguably the form of this Scotland team deteriorated as the tournament went on. His major problem is that, aside from Gray, Rennie, Denton and, perhaps, Stuart Hogg, the Scotland squad is awash with mediocrity and it is Robinson’s reluctance to jettison the under-achieving old guard that could be his downfall.

And finally...congratulations to Stephen Wickens whose 'Sleeping Dogs' fantasy team held off the challenge of Guillaume Amand's 'Famenne' and yours truly's 'Total Flankers' to win the inaugural TF Premier League. Stephen wins all manner of virtual prizes :)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Seven Up

Amidst all the hype and hyberbole surrounding the men’s version of the Six Nations, let us not forget the achievement of England’s women.

A 23-6 victory over Ireland at the weekend secured England a seventh straight title and sixth Grand Slam in the last seven years. Furthermore Katy McLean's team managed to go the whole tournament without conceding a try – some achievement.

I’m sure they’d swap it all, however, for a World Cup victory in France in 2014…

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Another gimme…


News today that former Scotland number 8 John Beattie is currently arranging for a brain scan and, assuming they locate it, will apparently donate his brain to neuroscience after he dies to enable doctors to study the extent to which rugby players' brains suffer injuries as a result of knocks to the head.

In other news, Matt Stevens will apparently donate his brain to science while still alive – it is hoped that this will result in him giving away fewer stupid penalties.

Closing the stable door...

News today that the Irish Rugby Union have advertised for the newly established role of high performance scrum coach. Seriously.


Sometimes this blogging lark is just too easy.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Hero to Zero?

Possible late change to Six Nations Champs & Chumps...

With Dylan Hartley cited for biting the finger of Stephen Ferris on Saturday, he could face an immediate switch from the TF Champs XV to its Chumps equivalent (as well as a lengthy ban from the game, of course).

Innocent until proven guilty, naturally, and you do have to wonder what the digit in question was doing in Hartley's mouth.

Six Nations 2012 - Champs & Chumps

Another 6 Nations has come and gone in the blink of an eye. Congratulations to Wales - a deserved Grand Slam.

And, in accordance with tradition, here's my utterly biased, one-eyed and partial assessment of who set the tournament alight and those who pissed on its fireworks...

Champs

15. Rob Kearney - Ireland's best player by a country mile. Honourable mentions for Leigh ½ p and Stuart Hogg, a Scottish back who can actually score tries.
14. Alex Cuthbert - the young Englishman looks a fine prospect :) .
13. Jonathan Davies – wonderfully balanced and powerful centre. Manu Tuilagi a close second.
12. Wesley Fofana – almost Guscott-like and utterly wasted on the wing by France.
11. George North – immense set of performances from the young Englishman :)
10. Owen Farrell – not the finished article but mentally as tough as nails.
9. Mike Phillips – I hate to admit it, but he played rather well.
1. Alex Corbisiero – just gets better and better. Closely pushed by Jean-Baptiste Poux.
2. Dylan Hartley – destruction of Irish front row a fitting finale.
3. Dan Cole - even better than Adam Jones at the moment – nuff said.
4. Ian Evans –  unsung hero. Quietly effective.
5. Richie Gray – astonishingly good, young and massive. Shoe-in for Lions next year.
6. Dan Lydiate – consistent excellence from the young Englishman :) . Not much between him and Stephen Ferris.
7. Justin Tipuric – Warburton's good but he appears to be made of glass. This bloke looks very special indeed. Ross Rennie also worth a mention.
8. Ben Morgan – what, a dynamic England no 8 with pace and good hands? My word.

Chumps

15. Clément Poitrenaud – when faced with the prospect of tackling he displayed all the moral fibre of a cheese eating surrender monkey.
14. Lee Jones – I’m all for giving youth a chance, but not when they look like they’re 12.
13. Fergus McFadden – still trying to tackle George North in his nightmares.
12. Nick De Luca - 2 yellow cards was about the sum of his contribution. Keith Earls a close second for Olympic diving audition.
11. David Strettle – Geoffrey Boycott's mother would have scored that try against Wales.
10. Lionel Beauxis - shocking, even worse than Kris Burton, and that's saying something.
9. Julien Dupuy - dreadful selection by Saint-Andre, truly dreadful.
1. Alan Jacobsen – being fat and belligerent is not enough (I should know).
2. Dimitri Szarzewski – beautiful hair, nowt else to say.
3. Matt Stevens – nose candy must have affected his ears as he obviously can't hear the referee.
4. Bradley Davies – a career as a cage fighter beckons.
5. Jim Hamilton - eclipsed throughout by lock partner and ended in yellow card ignominy.
6. Julien Bonnaire - sad end to a distinguished international career.
7. Sean O’Brien – not an openside and it showed.
8. Jamie Heaslip – a pale shadow of his former self.


Friday, 16 March 2012

Merve the Swerve RIP


With Wales on the brink of another Grand Slam comes the sad and poignant news that former Wales and Lions no. 8 Mervyn Davies has passed away after losing his battle with cancer, aged 65.

A superbly gifted footballer, 'Merv the Swerve' won 38 caps for Wales and 8 caps for the Lions during the golden era of the seventies, winning two Grand Slams, three Triple Crowns and being an integral part of two victorious Lions tours in 1971 and 1974.

I remember my shock in 1976 at the news that he had suffered a brain haemorrhage on the pitch, sadly cutting his playing career short, but my abiding memory of him will be as one of the all time greats and without doubt the world’s best no. 8 of his era.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Steady as she goes...


Don't you just love the good old British press?

Back in October the England squad was drowning in a press-led vat of negativity. As the team struggled for fluency on the field, stories emerged of booze-fuelled dwarf chambermaids bungee-jumping from ferries and, following the ¼ final defeat to France, a vicious post mortem portrayed the squad as a bunch of out-of-control, ill-disciplined, greedy prima donnas led by an out-of-touch and ineffective management.

Five months later, all has changed. New management and a new team, made in Leeds, all led by the most down-to-earth of Cumbrians and England are now talked of as honest, hard-working and united in self-belief. All fantastic qualities, no doubt, and all lapped up by the nation’s media. Add to that a sprinkling of stardust in the form of young Farrell and Morgan and an improbable victory in Paris and it’s a heady cocktail indeed.

Neither picture, of course, is the whole truth. Just as things were never as bad in New Zealand as the press would have had us believe, one victory in Paris does not an “England re-birth” make.

Don’t misunderstand me. Stuart Lancaster has done a remarkable job so far and, yes, on Sunday I was punching the air with the best of them as Tuilagi, Morgan and Croft tore past French defenders. We need, however, to get things in perspective. It was one win against a terrible French team and no more than that. Let’s not get carried away.

Win again against Ireland on Saturday however and…

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Welcome back Deano

Delighted to hear that Dean Richards has been appointed by Newcastle Falcons as DoR from the start of next season.

Many believe that Richards' 3 year ban following the 2009 Bloodgate scandal was too lenient. I, for one, believe that he was treated ridiculously harshly, scandalously scapegoated by the ERC as the ostensible sole culprit of a widespread practice.

Both Newcastle and English rugby will benefit hugely from Deano's rugby nous. Welcome back.


Conspiracy?

And the nominees for the official Six Nations Player of the Year are:


Sam Warburton – who has only played twice so far;

Dan Lydiate – fair enough;

Alex Cuthbert – good against Scotland and Italy, distinctly average otherwise;

Mike Phillips – not even the best in Wales;

Julien Malzieu – recently dropped by France;

Yoann Maestri – decent find by France, but really?

Imanol Harinordoquy – OK, fair enough, excellent as usual;

David Denton – great, but has managed to finish on the losing side in every match so far;

Ross Rennie – ditto;

Sergio Parisse – ditto;

Jonny Sexton – still not trusted by Declan Kidney to close a game out; and

Donnacha Ryan – very good indeed but has started only once this tournament.

Not one English player features. Cue the conspiracy theories.

I guess we’ll have to hope that one of the two Englishmen nominated, Alex Cuthbert and Dan Lydiate, get the nod :)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Jock Hobbs RIP

Extremely sad news today that former All Black flanker Jock Hobbs has passed away aged 52 after losing his fight with cancer.

I'm afraid that I am not au fait enough with his work as an administrator and ambassador for NZ rugby to comment, but I am old enough to remember Hobbs as a player. I recall  in particular how he came into the All Black team against the Lions in 1983, replacing the retired legend that was Graham Mourie - and the biggest compliment I can pay him was that the All Blacks didn't appear to miss Mourie one little bit.

You can’t keep a good ego down…


It seems that 5 minutes out of the limelight is way too much for our favourite orange Welshman, Gavin Henson.

With the Welsh rugby team possibly set to complete a Grand Slam without him on Saturday, rumours have now surfaced that the artist formerly known as Gavin Church is in talks to land a movie role opposite Slumdog Millionaire star Rubina Ali and fellow Welsh thespian Sir Anthony Hopkins.

A charisma bypass appears to be no barrier to Henson landing the role of a young Welsh nobleman who falls in love with an Indian girl in “Lord Owen’s Lady”, a small budget British romcom.

From where could these rumours possibly emanate? Couldn’t be his agent, could it?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Rees retires

I was very sad to hear that, at the age of only 27, Wasps flanker Tom Rees has been forced to retire from all rugby with immediate effect following medical advice.

He won 15 England caps but a plethora of injuries robbed him of so many more – Rees could and should have been a fixture at openside for England for the last 5 years, he was that good.

Good luck to him...

Good weekend/ Bad weekend - 6N 2012 - Round 4



GOOD WEEKEND

The Welsh

Four down, one to go.

Stuart Lancaster

Job prospects enhanced enormously. (A note of caution however – the last English coach to win in Paris? Brian Ashtion in 2008 – sacked before the end of the season).

Tom Croft

With thanks to the kidnappers who finally released him after nearly 3 years of captivity.

Alex Cuthbert, Rory Best, Andrew Trimble, Richie Gray and Manu Tuilagi

Try-scoring contributors to a fantastic performance by my team in this week’s TF Premier League.

BAD WEEKEND

The Welsh

Getting progressively worse as the tournament goes on. Think England in 2011?

Andy Robinson

Now on the brink of a Six Nations whitewash.

Alain Rolland

His bias kept France in the game before his incompetence denied them what would have been an undeserved victory.

Kris Burton

Comfortably the worst international rugby player I’ve ever seen.

TF Team of Round 4:

1. C.Healy 2. D.Hartley 3. D.Cole 4. D.Ryan 5. R.Gray 6. T.Croft 7. J.Tipuric 8. B.Morgan 9. E.Reddan 10. J.Sexton 11. A.Trimble 12. J.Roberts 13. M.Tuilagi 14. A.Cuthbert 15. R.Kearney

Friday, 9 March 2012

Plus ça change

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The attempted recruitment of a permanent England head coach by the RFU demonstrates that, despite the arrival of a new CEO, it is very much a question of business as usual. By 'business as usual' I mean, of course, the same old farcical incompetence that we’ve all come to know and love.

The story so far…

1. Stuart Lancaster is appointed interim head coach for the Six Nations;

2. The RFU appoints executive search firm, Odgers, to conduct a worldwide search for the best man for the job;

3. Odgers appear to come up with a shortlist that most of us could have put together in 5 minutes over a pint;

4. England start the Six Nations with a largely rookie squad and record 2 wins away from home before narrowly losing to Wales at Twickenham;

5. New CEO Ian Rich-tea announces that Lancaster will be interviewed for the job during the Six Nations with a view to making an announcement before the end of the Six Nations;

6. Lancaster, meanwhile, is expected to prepare his team for difficult fixtures against France and Ireland, the results of which, we are led to believe, will have no bearing on whether or not he is offered the job;

7. Ian Rich-tea announces that, actually, the RFU are in no rush, that it is important that they get the right man for the job and that they will, if necessary, look outside the shortlist of applicants;

8. Former South African coach, Jake White, indicates that he has been approached by the RFU, flirts with the possibility of trying to win the World Cup for a second time, and then publicly rejects the role via Twitter.

So far Lancaster is making a decent fist of rebuilding the England team. The way the RFU are handling the appointment, however, it looks increasingly as if, even if he is offered the permanent job, he will be very much perceived as the RFU's last resort.

Plus ça change. Plus c'est la même chose.


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Not Guilty - Good Evans

I see  Scotland's Max Evans was this week acquitted of assault, despite admitting having smashed some bloke in the face with a champagne glass in an Edinburgh nightclub.

It appears that old failsafe Stevie Gerrard-patented "I felt threatened so I twatted him in self defence" argument was once more accepted by a jury.

All well and good, but it does seem somewhat incongruous when looked at in the context of the Jake Weston case (below).

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

GBH

News this week that a rugby player has been jailed after breaking an opponent's jaw with a punch.

Jack Weston of Keynsham RFC hit Ben Staunton of Oldfield Old Boys twice when a fracas broke out over a dangerous tackle in a match last November.

Weston pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm and was jailed for six months at Bristol Crown Court this week.

Now, there are many who think of rugby as a "man's game" and that the odd punch here and there is part and parcel of all that. After all, who can, hand on heart, say that they have never thrown a punch during a game?

That said, clearly you can't go around hitting someone so hard that his jaw breaks and then expect to brush it off as just being part of the game. It is to Weston's credit that he realised this and pleaded guilty and, while to some the sentence may seem a little harsh, the message it sends out could not be clearer.

Moody Blues

Sad but unsurprising news today that Lewis Moody has finally had to acknowledge what his body’s been trying to tell him for years and has retired from the game.

It was always difficult to know what exactly to make of Moody. When he played at blindside he looked like a 7 and when he played at openside he looked like a 6 – but his wholehearted commitment was never in doubt and let us not forget how important he was to England's World Cup squad in 2003.

One thing Moody could never be accused of was of ever giving less than 100% for England, Leicester or, latterly, Bath and his utter disregard for his own safety in the way he played resulted in the litany of injuries which, ultimately, hastened his retirement.

My favourite comment about Moody comes from Martin Corry who, when discussing Moody being treated for a bang on the head against Tonga in 2007 after a typically kamikaze charge-down attempt, said:
"I didn't envy the doctor who went to tend to him - even when Lewis is at his sharpest it's difficult to tell if he's concussed or not."


Monday, 5 March 2012

Good weekend/ Bad weekend - 6N 2012 - Round 2½

* I must preface my comments this week with the admission that, owing to a prior engagement at Wembley Arena to attend a popular music recital otherwise known as the X Factor Live Tour, I failed to actually watch the France v Ireland encounter in Paris. I can only apologise…

GOOD WEEKEND

Tommy Bowe

Another 2 tries and in cracking form. My decision to exclude him from my Fantasy 6N team is looking increasingly perverse.

Wales

Now the only team capable of a Grand Slam. Should now be a stroll in the park.

Stuart Lancaster

Nothing to fear from France next week. Of course the last time I said that was prior to the RWC quarter final.

BAD WEEKEND

Ireland

How long might it be before they next have an 11 point lead in Paris?

Phillipe Saint-Andre

Discovering just how frustrating life as the French coach can be.

Danny Care

Arrested for the third time in as many months. Prat.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Whatever happened to: Space?

Last week prior to the England v Wales game at Twickenham I found myself watching highlights on BBC iPlayer of the equivalent fixture from 1976.

It was, frankly, like watching a completely different sport.

The differences were too many to mention in detail, but the most noticeable change in the game today is how little space there now is on the field compared to back then.

There are many reasons for this of course, massively increased fitness and far superior defensive coaching being amongst them, but the laws of the game don’t help.

One of the noticeable features of the 1976 game was that both sets of forwards were fully involved at every ruck and maul, meaning that when the ball did emerge (and admittedly it did not always do so) acres of space were available for the respective backlines to attack.

Nowadays it is common practice for teams to commit as few forwards as they can get away with (and in some cases none whatsoever) to each breakdown with the rest fanning out across the pitch to form a defensive line. Slowly but surely the game is becoming a facsimile of Rugby League, only with less space owing to the two extra players on each team.

So, what’s the answer? One solution would be to revert to the old law where the team going forward at the breakdown always gets the put in to the scrum. Admittedly the side effect of such a change would inevitably be the ball emerging less frequently from mauls and an increase in the number of scrummages (which actually doesn’t bear thinking about given the current shambolic nature of this particular set piece), but forcing teams to commit more men to the breakdown would certainly free up space out wide.

Alternatively coaches could just wise up a little. If the opposition is going to commit only a few players to the breakdown surely the answer for the attacking team is to commit more and then, ball secured, rather than fling it out to where the opposition are defending, attack the defence where it is weakest – right up the middle behind the breakdown.

Win the ball, stay on your feet and drive it up the middle. Force the opposition to commit forwards to stop you and then move the ball into space. Not exactly rocket science but hardly anyone ever does it. Or am I missing something?

Friday, 2 March 2012

Getting shirty

You know what I was pondering the other day?

I was thinking, “Gosh, hasn’t it been a long time since England last changed their rugby kit design. It’s been, oh, at least 6 months now – surely about time for a change.”

Imagine my relief therefore to read today’s announcement that the RFU have announced a long-term partnership with Canterbury to become their official kit partner from September 2012, ditching Nike in the process.

I think it's fair to say that Nike's designs have been somewhat hit and miss (see above) and I'm hoping for a return to a more traditional kit rather than some silly, generic, panelled Canterbury design as worn by the likes of Scotland and South Africa recently.

I won’t be holding my breath, however.

What's the rush?

It appears that England caretaker coach Stuart Lancaster will be interviewed for the permanent position of head coach during the Six Nations with a view to an announcement before the end of the tournament.

So says the RFU's new CEO in a blazer, Ian Rich-tea.

So, not only is Lancaster to be distracted by his employers from trying to do his job and prepare his rookie squad for important games against France and Ireland, he (and we) may also know his fate before the last match kicks off - hardly the most motivating scenario if he isn't given the nod.

For the life of me I can't see what the rush is. Interview other candidates now and leave Lancaster until after the 6 Nations ends in just over 2 weeks time.

New CEO. Same old RFU bollocks.



Thursday, 1 March 2012

Narrawayaway

Luke Narraway's decision to sign for Perpignan next season is a tad disappointing.

Rightly or wrongly the RFU have made it clear that England will for the most part only select Premiership-based players. Narraway knows this but has decided to go anyway, despite his somewhat naive protestations that his England chances remain unaffected.

I suppose you can't blame the bloke for wanting to earn a few bob abroad but it's a shame as, Ben Morgan aside, England aren’t exactly awash with big, quick, ball-playing no. 8s.

Still, if he is not willing stay and compete for a place then perhaps he’s not made of the right stuff for this England squad after all.