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England player dropped by phone at 6.30am in training ground car park

By Ian Cameron
England's (from left) Chris Jones, David Flatman and Matt Dawson sit out training at Kings College in Auckland, New Zealand, Wednesday, June 16th, 2004 (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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Professional rugby can be a brutal business and getting dropped by your national setup can Test the resolve of even the most thick-skinned of players.

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David Flatman – who won eight England caps between 2000 and 2002 – has recounted one such experience, when he was a young whippersnapper of a front-row back in the early noughties.

Flatman, who was reflecting on how the vast majority of international players will eventually face the process no matter how stellar their career, gave an account of one particularly brutal dropping he faced under Clive Woodward’s England regime.

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“There are, to my mind, some infinitely more savage ways to be dropped,” Flatman recounts in his RugbyPass+ column. “I was once, as a youngster, just arriving for England training very early on a Monday morning and my phone rang. We’re talking 6.30 am here, and it was the England team manager, calling to tell me I wouldn’t be needed by England and I should indeed please drive to the England A training base in Manchester. “Er, I’m already in the car park,” I said, rather pathetically, and the response was basically: “Not my problem, chief, and I’ve got a load of other lads to drop on behalf of the coach so could you please just accept it and move on? Thanks.”

“To said team manager (who was both brilliant and lovely, by the way) this was probably just a horrid start to the week which, frankly, she shouldn’t have had to handle, but to us lot it meant disappointing phone calls to mums and dads and girlfriends and team-mates. And it left a very sour taste indeed.

“I still can’t decide whether I think having a team manager do your dropping for you is a complete bottle job or if it merely displays a sociopathic lack of empathy, but either way it was astonishingly poorly done. On the international stage, though, I was but a minnow – and generally an injured minnow at that – so I guess it was deemed acceptable to treat me like one, but what happens when a giant of the game comes to the end? The thing is, you see, every giant wilts eventually; every maestro sees his thumbs turn blunt; every megastar’s eyes one day lose their sparkle.”

You can read the full column here.

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