England coach Eddie Jones in hot water with clubs over brutal training camp that saw a broken leg and a fractured jaw
English rugby is engulfed in a fresh club-versus-country row after Premiership Rugby accused the national team of putting the welfare of players at risk because of the intensity of the training camp in Brighton this week.
Saracens, the reigning English and European champions, accused Premiership Rugby of failing to fight hard enough for the clubs in the negotiations with the Rugby Football Union over the timing of the England camps under the new £225 million deal to secure access to the players.
The row erupted as Anthony Watson, the Bath wing, became the second player to sustain a long-term injury from England’s two-day camp at Brighton College after his club confirmed he had suffered a fractured jaw that is expected to rule him out of the autumn Test series next month.
Sam Jones, the Wasps flanker, also faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after breaking a leg in a judo session on Monday that was designed to improve the players’ breakdown and contact areas.
Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, described the decision to hold the camp just 10 days before the start of their defence of the Champions’ Cup against Toulon next week as “flabbergasting” and claimed that the club directors of rugby had not been consulted in the negotiations.
“It seems madness that we are playing on a Sunday and everyone goes on about player welfare and our international players have had a tough Monday and Tuesday,” said McCall yesterday. “England need time with their players, I understand that, but we would prefer it to be at a different time.
“I think Premiership Rugby need to be careful chasing all this money at the expense of the clubs. And the clubs need to be strong and fight their corner, because clearly the RFU are going to fight the international corner.”
Premiership Rugby released a statement insisting that England should not be using the camps for full training sessions following a weekend of club action. Thirty-seven of England’s 45-man elite player squad met up in Brighton on Sunday night after representing their clubs last weekend.
“In the interests of player welfare, Premiership Rugby believes that England should not be doing full training session straight after a Premiership weekend,” said the statement. “This format was not anticipated and we would not expect full training sessions to occur during the two other two-day England camps planned this season.”
But the RFU hit back by insisting that there was nothing in the new agreement – signed in July – regarding the content of the training sessions. It is understood there were two training sessions during the camp, one judo and one rugby session.
“The Professional Game Agreement enables England players to attend training camps that obviously involve rugby training,” said an RFU spokesman. “As we approach the autumn series, game training has to take place – this has always been part of the plan and is fully in line with the agreement.”
McCall said that England lock George Kruis had been unable to train with his club yesterday in order to manage a back problem as he had already done two sessions with England, while Harlequins players Mike Brown and Joe Marler also sat out training with their clubs.
The two-day camp was the first of its kind under the new deal between the RFU and the Premiership clubs. Under the previous eight-year deal England were allowed to stage a six-day pre-season camp in August but the new deal allows the RFU to stage three two-day camps across the Premiership campaign.
McCall revealed he had objected to the decision to hold a training camp this week. “From our club’s point of view we thought that Premiership Rugby could have fought harder as to where these camps are situated in the calendar,” McCall added. “We would like to have been involved in the discussion.
“For us to have it 10 days before our first Champions Cup game was flabbergasting. We’ve always used a two-week preparation for the first Champions Cup game. We do a lot of work in the first week with all our squad and then we taper off in the second week towards that pivotal match.
“We weren’t able to do that this week because our players were away. So that’s the frustration we have. And not to be consulted about it at all seems to be strange. When I raised it and objected to it I think there was surprise that it should cause any problem.
McCall revealed that Owen Farrell, who has yet to play a match this season because of a back and hip injury, had made “encouraging progress” after a positive scan last week but was highly unlikely to be involved in either their match against Wasps on Sunday or Toulon next weekend.