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The alleged England stigma Steve Diamond dismisses as 'bulls**t'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson - RFU/Getty Images)

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New Worcester boss Steve Diamond has dismissed as bulls**t the suggestion that players need to be playing for the best clubs in the Gallagher Premiership in order to get selected by England. The ex-Sale director just last week took over the day-to-day running of the rugby programme at the top-flight struggling Warriors following an eight-week consultancy and he will become director of rugby at the end of the season when Alan Solomons steps away.

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In the meantime, he is grappling to improve a Worcester squad that hasn’t much caught the eye of England boss Eddie Jones. Midfielder Ollie Lawrence had a fleeting run in the national team last season while Ted Hill finally won his second cap last June having made a November 2018 debut.

Neither of that duo – or anyone else at the club – is in the current England set-up, however, even though Jones has cast his net wide in recent times and eleven Premiership clubs are represented in the 29 players the coach has kept with him at Pennyhill Park heading into this Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations opener away to Scotland. 

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Wasps are the other club aside from the Warriors not to have a player vying for England selection this weekend, but Diamond doesn’t believe the Worcester status as a regular Premiership struggler is a deterrent to his players aspiring to play at the highest level. 

It was July 2020 when Hill, in an interview with RugbyPass, suggested: “There’s always been a thing around Premiership clubs – when you’re not in that top six and you want to play for England, there was a stigma that if you weren’t in a top Premiership club you weren’t going to play for England.

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“I always struggled with that concept. I thought, if I can show how good I am in a team that maybe isn’t performing well every week, then surely it when I come into a team that is really dominant, it will show even more. That was always my mindset.”

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“I think it is bulls**t if I am honest,” said Diamond on Wednesday when asked if such a stigma genuinely does exist. “You have got to be playing well and be a star player in your own position to get picked for England. 

“It is the hardest job picking the England team, let’s be honest. There are 400,000 players in the country, the biggest rugby population in the world, and to whittle that down to 29 is difficult. You have to be at the top of your game consistently and even if you are playing at a club that isn’t playing particularly well, the national coaches see that and pick accordingly.”

Recent Worcester signings, Scottish pair Rory Sutherland and Duhan van der Merwe, will likely feature for Scotland against England, but Diamond is hoping the Worcester academy can produce international players of the future rather than the club just importing players of that calibre.  

“It is a great credit to the club if your players get through and play international rugby and that is even more so if you produce them,” he suggested. “Ollie Lawrence, who has had an injury, and Ted Hill are on the cusp of being international players, to name but a couple. 

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“It is slightly different if you import internationals into your team because you know what you are buying and you lose them for a long time and there is no benefit for the club and the reputation of the club for players to come through the pathway and end up playing for the national team. 

“At this moment of time, we haven’t anybody there but I was at Sale for a long time when we had nobody there. It is just a matter of time, a bit of luck and good management and I am in no doubt with the region, with the academy, we will create plenty of players over the coming years.”

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