Sat. Oct 1st, 2022


The Harlequins are fed up with not being able to pick Marcus Smith against the Saracens, who were given five England international picks on Saturday, including Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola.

All England players touring Australia over the summer are required to take 10 weeks off as part of their player welfare protocol, meaning they must rest for the first two weekends of the season. But clubs can apply for the special exemption, as with Bristol and Ellis Genge last weekend, and the Saracens seem to have been successful in letting Farrell, Itoje, Jamie George and both Vunipola brothers play at Stoop.

The Harlequins saw Smith’s requests to return a week early were denied, hinting at their frustrations in the press release announcing their team. “Unfortunately, Marcus Smith was not allowed to play this week and will continue his mandatory rest period following England’s international summer competitions,” he said. It appears that the Harlequins were simply diverted to regulations in response to their requests.

Each application is made to the professional performance management group, made up of representatives of the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and Rugby Players’ Association. Eddie Jones is also believed to have a say.

Each case is handled individually and players with little or no playing time in Australia are more likely to be allowed to return early. On this basis, Quins recruits Joe Marchant and Jack Walker, while players who missed a large part of the last season due to injury, such as Farrell or Jack Nowell, who played last week at Exeter, are also more likely to be approved.

There seem to be inconsistencies in Smith’s decision to bar him from playing Saturday, but Billy Vunipola is allowed to take part, given that #8 played more games and minutes for club and country last season. Both players started three Tests against Australia – as did Farrell and George. Itoje missed the final Test due to a concussion.

The inconsistent approach has been criticized by the player welfare lobby group Progressive Rugby and is causing confusion, as the Guardian explained in May, in a season where England players will miss around half of their clubs’ Premiership games if the rest of protocols are fully followed. with.

Earlier this week, Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter expressed his frustration with a system that puts front-line England players in clubs’ squads at a disadvantage. “One thing is becoming clear and there is no rugby director in the country who would not say that, the amount of Premiership Rugby games that clash with international players or international rest periods is just too much,” he said.

“It seems strange that we allow a system in this country. [where it] It has actually become quite difficult to have international players, especially players from England. To me it’s weird when clubs that supply players to England have a system where it feels bad, difficult to have too many players. It’s hard to be a true supporter of the England team. It’s a bit of a strange system.”

Player release and the issue of how many club games England players have not played will form an important part of the new professional game deal negotiations between the Premiership and the RFU, which will come into effect in 2024. England failed during the Six Nations for the second year in a row, RFU CEO Bill Sweeney said, “Everybody is sick of it. It needs to be fixed.”



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