Brown de­fends Jones over in­jury record

Eng­land train­ing needs higher in­ten­sity, he says RFU must be ‘rugby smart’ on tack­les – Itoje ‘You are fight­ing to play for your coun­try, so you want to show what you can do’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Mick Cleary RUGBY COR­RE­SPON­DENT Mike Brown and Maro Itoje are Land Rover am­bas­sadors. @Lan­drover­rugby

Eng­land full-back Mike Brown has de­fended Ed­die Jones’s train­ing meth­ods de­spite a re­port show­ing there has been a five­fold in­crease in the sever­ity of in­juries sus­tained by play­ers dur­ing ses­sions over­seen by the head coach since he took over three years ago.

Bruce Craig, the Bath chair­man, was among those who raised con­cerns about the num­ber of play­ers hurt at Eng­land’s camps. Over the past two sea­sons there have been an av­er­age of 44 and 47 days re­spec­tively missed by play­ers as a re­sult of those in­ci­dents in train­ing. Yet Brown has no is­sue with ei­ther the type of ses­sions con­ducted or the in­ten­sity de­manded.

“No, I don’t,” said Brown. “It is in­ter­na­tional rugby. You have to pre­pare ac­cord­ingly. You need to have that higher in­ten­sity be­cause it is for Test rugby. An in­ter­na­tional player is a very com­pet­i­tive an­i­mal. You are fight­ing to play for your coun­try, so in ev­ery ses­sion you want to show what you can do.

“When ev­ery player is train­ing like that, which you have to do in or­der to get se­lected, there might be accidents. These things hap­pen. The guys at Eng­land are the most com­pet­i­tive at each of their clubs and when you have that elite 30 striv­ing to be Test play­ers, well, it is very dif­fer­ent from club level.”

There have been sev­eral high­pro­file in­ci­dents in the past cou­ple of years, with Wasps flanker Sam Jones forced into pre­ma­ture re­tire­ment fol­low­ing a judo ses­sion dur­ing an Eng­land camp at Brighton Col­lege, while Bath prop Beno Obano has not played for five months af­ter pick­ing up an in­jury.

The Rugby Foot­ball Union’s act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive, Nigel Melville, ac­knowl­edged that there had been an is­sue in the step-up re­quired from club level to the Test arena.

“We did recog­nise a prob­lem and we have looked at the tran­si­tion of play­ers from their club en­vi­ron­ment to the Eng­land ses­sions, which are of greater in­ten­sity,” Melville said.

Brown, who was dropped by Jones for the au­tumn se­ries, is one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers in the squad, with 72 caps hav­ing made his de­but in 2007. Even though he dis­closes that Jones’s regime is “very dif­fer­ent” from the Stu­art Lan­caster and Andy Far­rell set-up which pre­ceded it, the 33-year-old has no qualms at all about the Aus­tralian’s ap­proach.

“The train­ing is very dif­fer­ent but they have just gone about it in dif­fer­ent ways,” said Brown, speak­ing on be­half of Land Rover at an off-road driv­ing event. “Eng­land train­ing has been in­tense and phys­i­cal un­der both sets of coaches.”

Maro Itoje was one of those who picked up an in­jury, a chipped knee, at Eng­land’s camp in the Al­garve in Oc­to­ber. The Sara­cens lock has not played since early De­cem­ber but is ex­pected to fea­ture against Lyon in the Cham­pi­ons Cup on Sun­day.

Itoje has urged the game’s ad­min­is­tra­tors to be more “rugby smart” in the man­ner in which they are try­ing to change player be­hav­iour in the tackle, tak­ing is­sue with the union’s view that more red and yel­low cards should be handed out to re­duce con­cus­sive in­juries.

“A lot of the tack­les that are be­ing given red and yel­low cards are not dan­ger­ous tack­les,” Itoje said. “The seat-belt tackle, where you grab over the shoul­der and the midriff, is not a dan­ger­ous tackle. Play­ers have been given yel­low cards for seat-belt tack­les that are not dan­ger­ous. If I chop your neck, that is a dan­ger­ous tackle.

“Some­times [of­fi­cials] have taken rugby sense out of it. They are not us­ing rugby in­tel­li­gence. A lot of ref­er­ees are pe­nal­is­ing tack­les that are not dan­ger­ous. There should be [more] player in­put. Play­ers are the ones who are ac­tu­ally in it; feel­ing it. You can’t make de­ci­sions in any as­pect with­out their in­put.”

Itoje was not at all shocked by news of an in­crease in in­juries. “Some of it isn’t sur­pris­ing,” he said. “If there is more im­pact in each carry, each tackle, each col­li­sion, the like­li­hood of con­cus­sion in­creases. I think more of the con­cus­sions, though, come from when play­ers go too low. That is the irony. You go low and you have the full force of el­bows and knees, you have your fore­arm to at­tack some­one’s head so maybe it is be­ing looked at from the wrong an­gle.

“Medics, though, are much bet­ter at recog­nis­ing con­cus­sion and call­ing play­ers out on it and play­ers them­selves are much bet­ter at not try­ing to be a hero.”

Bruis­ing en­coun­ters: Mike Brown is back­ing Ed­die Jones, and (below) he charges into a tackle bag dur­ing an Eng­land train­ing ses­sion in Oc­to­ber

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