Managing players . . . or not
For a clear picture of the differences between Irish and English rugby systems, see who returned from international duty this past weekend.
Seventeen of the England team that beat Australia on November 24th were starting in club costumes. From the England starting XV, Exeter duo Henry Slade and Ben Moon were held off while Owen Farrell and Ben Te’o did not reappear for Saracens and Worcester. The rest? Flogged (including Manu Tuilagi as Leicester stumble closer to relegation trouble). The numbers don’t lie with Billy Vunipola and Tuilagi only sharing the Test match field under Eddie Jones for 17 minutes against Wales in March 2016. That England remain the fourth ranked side in the world is an indictment of the standard of international rugby.
Of the Ireland 23 that faced New Zealand on November 17th only three were back on deck for the provinces – Peter O’Mahony and Keith Earls – as Munster coach Johann van Graan seeks momentum before Castres come to Limerick. Jordi Murphy was at openside for Ulster with Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale coming off the bench to salvage the latest unimpressive Belfast victory, over Cardiff, while Andrew Porter finished off Leinster’s decimation of the Dragons at Rodney Parade. The rest? On ice.