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Sanderson's 6:30am phone call after Raffi Quirke England omission

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Sale boss Alex Sanderson has revealed how he made a 6.30am phone call to his brother Pat, his fellow ex-England international, after Eddie Jones’ decision this week to omit young Raffi Quirke from selection plans for this Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations opener away to Scotland. The 20-year-old scrum-half played a crucial try-scoring role off the bench to help beat the Springboks just eleven weeks ago.

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However, the England matchday 23 for this weekend’s trip to Edinburgh is illustrative of how quickly things can change at Test level rugby. Eight players who featured in the win over the world champions are not involved this time around. 

Injury accounted for Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes and Sam Underhill, but Bevan Rodd, Nic Dolly and Quirke are all absent due to Jones preferring different players. 

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Sale prop Rodd – a starter versus the Springboks due to Covid affecting the England front row – was part of the 29 retained on Tuesday before it was confirmed on Thursday that Ellis Genge will be the starting loosehead and Joe Marler the bench backup in that front row position.

It’s an understandable call given the wealth of experience that Genge and Marler have compared to Rodd. Experience, though, wasn’t the reason why Quirke lost out on a bench spot to Harry Randall as the Bristol scrum-half is just as inexperienced as Quirke at Test level as they each have just two caps.

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It was Tuesday evening when it emerged that Randall had got the nod to remain in England camp and leave a dejected Quirke making his way home to Manchester where he will have Premiership rather than Six Nations exposure this weekend. “It’s probably the first time he has had any real setbacks in the last couple of years and at some point, this was always going to happen,” reasoned Sanderson about Quirke being deemed surplus to England requirements for the start of the Six Nations.  

“I was chatting to my brother on Wednesday morning in my car at half-past six on the way in and he has been through it, just as I have been through, occasions in your life where you feel personally you were left out of a team you feel you should have been in and sometimes there are occasions when you make a team you should never have made. 

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“Say Bev Rodd last autumn, through Covid. Over the course of time, they tend to even themselves out. Does it make it any easier for a young lad (like Raffi) who wants it now, who is ready now? That is the challenge we have with him to try and make him realise that he has got time on his hands and if he plays enough (for Sale) he will prove his worth and that was the conversion we had Tuesday night coming back home.

“He has only played three games with us the whole season so we feel he needs some game time just to prove his worth, to think he is good enough to be in the England squad but I would be biased. It would be pretty safe to assume he will be included this weekend against Quins.”

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finn 9 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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