Dean Richards has warned Eddie Jones that his continued absence from Newcastle Falcons matches could see English talent snapped up by rival countries.
The Scotland management under Gregor Townsend are regular visitors to Kingston Park and last November gave a test debut to Chris Harris, the Carlisle born Falcons centre who qualified through his grandmother. Richards, the Newcastle director of rugby, is concerned that merely relying on video of his team’s matches creates a disconnect with England.
Falcons currently have only Mark Wilson in the England squad but Richards believes fleet footed fullback Simon Hammersley and strong running centre Johnny Williams, who joined from London Irish in the summer, warrant serious consideration by the national selectors. Williams won the Junior World Championship with England Under-20s in 2016 and has made an immediate impact in the Falcons mid-field – an area of concern for England.
While Richards, one of the leading candidates to replace Jones when his contract ends in 2021, accepts he could be accused of bias, he believes those players in his squad who qualify for a number of home unions could be lost thanks to a lack of “hands on” contact.
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The former British and Irish Lions and England No8 told RugbyPass that previous England regimes under Martin Johnson and Stuart Lancaster created a much closer connection between England and the Premiership clubs. He explained: “I don’t think we are looked at enough by England and the interest shown is not reflected in where we finished in the Premiership (fourth).
“Without a doubt we saw more of the coaches under Jonno and Stuart. From a playing perspective England want the boys to want to play international rugby and they won’t get that if they don’t sell the dream because there are players (at Newcastle) who could play for England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland and may go down that route.
“The Scottish boys come down a lot and it’s only two hours down the road but having said that it’s not difficult to jump on a plane from Heathrow.
“Being in the Heineken Champions Cup means that Jonny will get looked at and I know that Eddie looks at our game even though he doesn’t come to them week in week out. While you don’t necessarily have to see a player “live” it is nice for them to be seen to be being watched. However, the England selectors don’t show that interest enough to come and watch us play.
“We play an expansive game with ball in hand and Simon is playing really well and you would have to say to Eddie “take a look” and we have some really good players in positions where there are others competing for attention. The centre position in the England team is not settled and Johnny is raw but he could do a really good job. He has all the bits and pieces in his game and will mature as the year goes on and by the end of the season you will see a very different Johnny Williams – one that should be pushing for international honours.
“If Mark Wilson wasn’t picked then you would want to send Will Welch and so there is a log jam in certain positions. The Heineken Champions Cup games will give our players a different platform and the chance to learn new tricks of the trade.”
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