Thursday, 4 October 2007

Youth culture

So, while we all pause for breath ahead of the World Cup quarter finals, contemplating the logic of yet another shuffling of the England deck by Brian "Yoda" Ashton, it's probably worth a mention that the English domestic season has been underway for a few weeks now and has almost gone unnoticed, certainly slipping beneath the radar of many a rugby pundit.

The debate about whether the English domestic season and, in particular, the Guinness Premiership should run concurrently with the World Cup isn't something I want to get into, at least not right now. What does interest me, however, is the number of quality youngsters - all qualified for England - who are being given their chance in the Premiership in the absence of the so-called "star" players who are or have been representing their nation(s) at the World Cup.

The charge is often levelled at the Premiership clubs that they recruit too many foreign players and do not develop enough English talent, but cast your eye around the clubs right now and you'll see that the scene isn't quite so bleak. For instance, here's a possible team made up from English-qualified players in the Premiership who are not currently on World Cup duty, all of whom will still be around in 2011:

15. Danny Cipriani - Wasps
14. Topsy Ojo - London Irish
13. Jordan Turner-Hall - Quins
12. Anthony Allen - Gloucester
11. Lesley Vainakolo - Gloucester (sorry, couldn't resist that one!)
10. Shane Geraghty - London Irish
9. Danny Care - Quins
1. Tom French - Wasps
2. David Paice - London Irish
3. Nick Woods - Gloucester
4. Richard Blaze - Leicester
5. Tom Palmer - Wasps
6. James Haskell - Wasps
7. Magnus Lund - Sale
8. Phil Dowson - Newcastle

Not too shoddy a team eh? Here's another one, equally as talented:

15. Nick Abendanon - Bath
14. David Doherty - Quins
13. Jack Adams - Gloucester
12. Dominic Waldouck - Wasps
11. Tom Varndell - Leicester
10. Ryan Lamb - Gloucester
9. Ben Foden - Sale
1. David Wilson (Newcastle)
2. Dylan Hartley - Northampton (OK, not strictly the Premiership but England qualified nevertheless)
3. Michael Holford - Wasps
4. Louis Deacon - Leicester
5. Tom Ryder - Saracens
6. Tom Croft - Leicester
7. David Seymour - Saracens
8. Jordan Crane - Leicester

When you add the likes of Andrew Sheridan, Matt Stevens, Lee Mears, Steve Borthwick, Lewis Moody, Tom Rees, Dan Ward-Smith, Nick Easter, David Strettle, Toby Flood, Olly Barkley, Paul Sackey, Olly Morgan, Danny Hipkiss and Matthew Tait to the mix, none of whom should be too old in 2011, it's appears that England do have a core of young players to work with over the next four years, many of whom already have international experience. Heck, even Jonny Wilkinson might still be available, if he hasn't had a complete body reconstruction by then.

All that's required to give a group of players of this quality a fighting chance at international level and at the next World Cup is a domestic system that doesn't knacker the players and pull their loyalty from pillar to post and a national coaching regime where the players are properly looked after and valued and which is a big step-up in quality from what they are already used to at their clubs.

Now, that's not much to ask is it?

1 comment:

Ferdy said...

I just wanted to drop by TF and tell you that I'm still really enjoying your blog (even though you love to diss the haka!) Keep up all the good. Some of the things you dig up are priceless.