BEN TE’O

The Rugby Paper - - News - By NEALE HAR­VEY

Worces­ter War­rior fi­nally feel­ing fully fit again af­ter Lions ex­er­tions

ENG­LAND cen­tre Ben Te’o be­lieves Ire­land ‘do it right’ by cen­trally con­tract­ing their top Test play­ers, af­ter re­veal­ing the ex­tent to which be­ing plunged straight back into league ac­tion fol­low­ing last sum­mer’s Lions tour com­pro­mised his fit­ness.

Te’o re­turned from New Zealand a hero but just 49 days later fea­tured in War­riors’ open­ing day loss at New­cas­tle – an un­sat­is­fac­tory sit­u­a­tion that con­trasted sharply, he claims, with the ex­pe­ri­ences of the Ir­ish Lions he had played with.

While the likes of Johnny Sex­ton and Tadgh Fur­long rested, not ap­pear­ing again un­til the end of Septem­ber, Te’o told The Rugby Pa­per: “I had a bit of hol­i­day, then two weeks of train­ing and it was straight back to the Pre­mier­ship.

“It is re­lent­less for play­ers here, es­pe­cially com­ing off the Lions. It’s like you’re al­ways play­ing catch-up and you’re never as well con­di­tioned as you should be. The sit­u­a­tion works dif­fer­ently in coun­tries where there are cen­trally con­tracted play­ers, like Ire­land. They do it right, but we’re in a dif­fer­ent sys­tem.

“It can take guys six or seven games to re­ally get in their groove here be­cause you haven’t had a pre­sea­son. They’re just get­ting off a sun bed about ten days be­fore and then play­ing, but that’s the dif­fer­ence in Eng­land where there are pri­vately owned teams in the Pre­mier­ship and they ex­pect you to get out and play.”

Asked whether cen­tral con­tracts could work in Eng­land, for­mer Le­in­ster mid­fielder Te’o says: “From play­ing in Ire­land and talk­ing to a lot of their guys, I un­der­stand how ben­e­fi­cial the cen­tral con­tract­ing sys­tem is.

“I came off the Lions tour with­out a proper pre­sea­son and it can be tough on play­ers to back-up with­out the fit­ness, weight train­ing or run­ning un­der their belts.

“My form at the start of this sea­son was not my best and the next minute I in­jured my an­kle – so I’ve been chas­ing my tail for fit­ness since that Lions tour.”

The se­ri­ous an­kle sprain Te’o suf­fered in Oc­to­ber re­quired the in­ser­tion of a plate, caus­ing him to miss the Au­tumn se­ries and threat­en­ing his Six Na­tions cam­paign.

How­ever, he re­cov­ered to start against Italy in Rome and fea­tured in all five of Eng­land’s matches. De­spite a dis­ap­point­ing cam­paign in which Eng­land lost their last three games to fin­ish fifth, he is ready to tackle South Africa.

Te’o said: “An­kle in­juries hang around and from hav­ing surgery and wear­ing a boot for six weeks you have to learn how to walk, jog and run all over again.

“When you’ve had a trau­matic in­jury it takes time to get con­fi­dence back when you’re chop tack­led or go into those heavy con­tact sit­u­a­tions.

“There were ups and downs, but I was de­lighted to make the first game against Italy. I started three Six Na­tions games and came off the bench twice.”

Te’o added: “It was frus­trat­ing re­sults-wise and it was Ire­land’s turn. They were the best team in the comp but that’s just the way sport goes some­times be­cause form, in­juries and how play­ers are feel­ing af­ter the Lions all comes into it.

“For Eng­land it’s about bounc­ing back in South Africa now and I’m ready to go. If you’re a com­pet­i­tive player and you’ve been part of the Eng­land set-up for the last few years, you can’t wait to get back and have an­other crack.”

Mean­while, an­other sea­son of un­der-achieve­ment by Worces­ter has height­ened Te’o’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to be part of some­thing spe­cial next sea­son.

Quash­ing spec­u­la­tion he might move on, Te’o said: “I’ll 100 per cent be here next sea­son. The is­sue with this club has been look­ing down at what’s be­hind us in­stead of look­ing up – and there’s been a lot of chop­ping and chang­ing of staff.

“Alan Solomons has come and taken con­trol, though, and as long as he’s in place there’s no rea­son why we can’t climb the lad­der and chal­lenge.

“Pick­ing up guys like Jono Lance and Dun­can Weir is huge. They’re both ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers who’ve played in big games so we just want to fin­ish this sea­son strongly now. Af­ter that, I’m sure Alan will lead us in the right di­rec­tion next year.”

Te’o is con­fi­dent there will be other Worces­ter play­ers tour­ing South Africa, adding: “Jack Sin­gle­ton, our hooker, and sec­ond row Will Spencer are putting in great per­for­mances and I know they’re get­ting closer to be­ing picked.

“War­riors would love these guys to tour be­cause it would be a great ex­am­ple for our academy lads to see those guys be­ing capped.

“It shows young guys you don’t need to leave this club to have a chance of in­ter­na­tional rugby.”

Eng­land prospects: Jack Sin­gle­ton and Will Spencer

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