Saracens fullback Alex Goode has said it was a “tough period” not being selected by Eddie Jones for England.
Speaking to Lee McKenzie on the House of Rugby podcast, the 32-year-old, currently on loan at Japanese outfit NEC Green Rockets, shared at length his experience of persistently being overlooked by England despite being deemed one of the best players in Europe.
As a member of one of the most successful club teams over the past decade, Goode was named the Premiership player of the season in 2016, and was crowned the European player of the year in 2019.
However, only two of his 21 caps have come under Jones, both in 2016. This was to the bewilderment of much of the English public.
The Saracen found himself in the same position as a handful of other players who had scooped plenty of accolades but could not crack into the national team. The current European player of the year Sam Simmonds is in a similar situation.
But Goode has kept a positive outlook, and explained that he had to accept that he was not the type of player Jones wanted stylistically and that allowed him to focus on his performances for Saracens.
“I think there’s plenty of people who aren’t selected who perhaps feel they should be selected in many team sports across the board,” he said.
“That’s part of professional sport. Everyone wants to be the number one, the Jonny Wilkinson, the Owen Farrell, play every week and be great. And everyone strives for that. There’s also a lot of players who don’t reach that level.
“I think ultimately you have to get your head round it, you have to believe you’re doing everything possible to get picked and you’re playing well enough and that you believe you should get picked. But it comes down to one man’s opinion ultimately.
“It’s a tough period for any player when you believe you’re good enough and you’re playing well enough and you don’t quite get that opportunity. You have to sort of harness either that anger, frustration or whatever it is and put it into your rugby. And I was always pretty happy with how I was always going back to Saracens and trying to put the best foot forward and play well.
“You just have to keep playing well and keep knocking on the door and hopefully you get that chance.
“I think with Stuart Lancaster, you could really ask him really exactly what he wanted, what you need to work on and he would tell you that you need do this or that, Mike’s playing really well, Ben Foden’s playing really well, and just keep going out there and working hard, I’m happy with you in training, keep helping the team, being competitive etc.
“Sometimes with Eddie it’s a bit tricker. The example I always give of when you know you’re not going to play is when we went to Australia in 2016. I’d just been named player of the season in the Premiership, I think I got man of the match in the final and then a week later we were in Australia. I member the first week of training I did pretty well, not amazing but well enough, and it came to deciding in the first game and Eddie said “I think you’ve dropped too many balls in training,” or “you haven’t trained well enough.” I went through all the training and thought I dropped one ball or something like that.
"I knew deep down I wasn't the type of player he wanted."
— RugbyJOE (@RugbyJOE_UK) February 4, 2021
“I remember thinking, do I make an enemy out of this and say “this is rubbish” and go at him. I spoke to some of the coaches I knew well and they said “look, just keep training hard, keep working hard.” It came the second week and boys had won and [he said] “it was just a feeling I have.” And the third week it was “I’m going to stick with the same team,” and didn’t give me loads to work with.
“I think I knew I was playing as well as I had played on a tour, I wouldn’t say the other players were playing amazingly at the time and I didn’t get a chance. I came home and a really good friend of mine who’s a coach just said “he’s not going to pick you so get your head around it.” It was pretty brutal but he was right. I think at that point, deep down I knew I wasn’t the type of player he wanted. And it perhaps made it a bit easier at that point because I went “right just going to focus on Sarries,” everything about playing for the club that I love.
“As a player, you believe that you should be in the team and I believe that I was good enough and I was playing well enough and I deserved a chance and I didn’t get that which was sad and a shame. But I don’t sit at home now and lose sleep over it. It is what it is and I’m very happy with my career so far.
“You can’t please everyone in this world.”
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