No this headline is not a new post Brexit assessment. When I was Chairman of Europe, Jacky Lorenzetti owner of Racing 92 made a post match speech and was passionate about the sporting connections in rugby remaining constant, Brexit or no. Sports crosses all boundaries and represents true values in life. More of that later.
Should Borthwick be relaxing a little into his and England’s new four year cycle, he can now forget the broken legacy left by Eddie Jones. In fact, Jones managed England to a Grand Slam in his first season 2016 when England was recovering from the shock of being knocked out at the pool stages. Most other teams were rebuilding but we picked the same hurting players and they at least achieved some redemption. In 1992, my England team responded to its narrow World Cup Final loss with a second successive Grand Slam, and in some style. After our World Cup Win in 2003 the team disintegrated and Andy Robinson had to start again. Post World Cup years are curious for various reasons.
English club teams have made a strong showing so far in the Investec Champions Cup and more importantly in their style of play. Bath look promising but won’t face strong opposition for a while, and the young guns of Exeter took a notable scalp down in Toulon. Northampton Saints look hungry and in form. One of the National side’s major challenges has been it’s inability to play attacking rugby either by design, poor coaching or through picking the wrong players. Now that Marchant has been effectively exiled in Paris, the likes of Lawrence, Slade and Will Joseph have shown real class alongside Marcus Smith. Now that Farrell is unavailable, there can be no question that Smith should lead a revival – watching him play with such maturity in Paris was striking and crucially with quick ball, the oxygen for a style of play we all wish to see. The old warhorse Tuilagi has had a strong return but unless he stays irresistible I would like to see some younger talent given its head. Why not ? We need to pick on form not history especially with such a poor Six Nations record recently.
Four other pre Christmas rugby questions which could appear in a sporting cracker:
1/ Why do English teams pick under strength teams in Europe? Is it to save themselves for league matches when there is no relegation anyway or perhaps because it is the best place to allow young stars to flourish…….Ask Sale!
2/ Does anyone really blame Henry Arundell? His decision to turn his back on England for a while is probably a combination of disillusionment with ineffective backs coaches and bewildering selection decisions as much as an exuberance of youth and the magnetism of Racing 92.
3/ The Best back row player in England at the moment ? Yes, the oldest …….. Courtney Lawes.
4/ Does anyone want to bet against the Championship Clubs managing their own destiny in 2024 for the future of Tier 2 rugby? Perhaps don’t.
Lastly, I cannot sign off without condemning the circumstances that could have brought the curtain down on Owen Farrell’s career. The statement by Kyle Sinckler that players could be much better cared for is also incredibly worrying and is yet another wake up call for how we look after players at the top of our game. Let us employ ALL the resources available from business as well as sport because the former live in the real world not a bubble and can surely help keep our best talent with a life perspective.