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’
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