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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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The Zach Mercer 'crisis meeting' speech that helped turn Montpellier's tide

By Ian Cameron
Zach Mercer /Getty

Former England backrow Zach Mercer was asked to step up to the plate early in his Montpellier career, revealing how he was told to give a speech during a ‘crisis meeting’ at his new club.

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The former Bath flanker shocked English rugby last year when he revealed that he was upping sticks to the Top 14 – seemingly turning his back  [for the time being at least] on earning more England caps under Eddie Jones. Mercer revealed that a 1-to-1 phone conversation with Philippe Saint-André was what convinced him to make the move.

However, it wasn’t all sweetness and light for the 24-year-old. Montpellier’s season got off to a rocky start with four losses out of five during a spell of games between a defeat to Toulouse at home on September 18th and a one-point loss to Clermont, also at home at GGL Stadium – on October 16th.

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Champions Cup Chaos, Eben Etzebeth drama & we speak to Zach Mercer | Le French Rugby Podcast | EP 12
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Champions Cup Chaos, Eben Etzebeth drama & we speak to Zach Mercer | Le French Rugby Podcast | EP 12

“About three games in we had a crisis meeting,” Mercer told the French Rugby Podcast.  “We had lost to Toulouse at home through a missed kick and we lost to Clermont at home to a missed kick.

“Everyone that knows rugby, when there’s a crisis meeting, you’re like ‘here we go’.

“He [PSA] actually asked me to speak at this meeting. I was a bit taken aback really, as an English guy coming in, and him asking me what my opinion is regarding the situation we were in.

“I was a bit like ‘okay’. The translator was there and he translated everything for me.”

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Mercer’s message to his new teammates was surprisingly simple and to the point.

“I said that we hadn’t actually been beaten by a better team. I can put my my hand up and I can honestly say know that in the Top 14 we haven’t been beaten by a better team. There were errors that we made, but I don’t believe that they’re better than us.

“I could sense the pride that these guys have when they put the jersey on is ridiculous. It’s completely different to the Premiership.

“I think [the pride] is a massive part of that and we [MHR] have stripped back to that and played for each other and played for the jersey.”

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What was said at the meeting, between Mercer, PSA and others, seemed to do the trick.

“After that meeting we’ve gone six [wins] in a row.”

“I think from then on we kind of just clicked and we have the same vision. For me, I just want to play for the lads and him [PSA] massively, because I owe him. He took a shot on me to bring me here so.”

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