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'You destroy young people when you give them false hope'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Soon-to-depart Northampton boss Chris Boyd has taken a potshot at Eddie Jones’ penchant for calling up-and-coming prospects into the England set-up and then not capping them. Saints winger Tommy Freeman is the latest Franklin’s Gardens player to be courted by the Test coach, featuring in multiple training squads across the international season without making a debut.

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It’s a pattern that Boyd knows well as numerous other Northampton players have been on the England fringes only to fall back into the shadows and be left waiting to get another call. Lewis Ludlam, George Furbank, Alex Mitchell and Piers Francis have all had fleeting caps under Jones without becoming regular picks, Paul Hill was waiting four years in between games until last summer, while Ollie Sleightholme, Fraser Dingwall and Dave Ribbans have all made training squads without getting capped.

It was something Boyd spoke about at the start of the 2021/22 Gallager Premiership season, telling RugbyPass at the time: “The trick now is we have had a number of guys out of our academy that have all had little snippets of opportunities to go into the England environment but in the back-end, none of those has really gone on to consolidate themselves.

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“There is a group of youngsters here and it is probably time they started putting in some really consistent performances to see if they can really go to the next level.”

That next level came up for discussion this week when the UK Telegraph secured a round table interview at the PRL awards night with the four Premiership semi-final bosses – Northampton’s Boyd, Saracens’ McCall, Harlequins’ Tabai Matson and Leicester’s Steve Borthwick – and among the many questions posed was the invite for the DoRs to pick one player they would like to see play for England on next month’s tour to Australia.

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Boyd replied: “I’m not sure I have got an answer for that.” When it was put to him that the 21-year-old Freeman, a rookie with 28 Premiership appearances, was perhaps someone the Saints would like to see in Test action, the DoR added: “I don’t think you want to go down my theory on that, but I would not pick anyone for England who has not played at least 50 games for their club. I think you destroy young people when you give them false hope.”

Have you seen evidence of that? “Plenty,” insisted Boyd. Meanwhile, Leicester boss Borthwick chose Ellis Genge. “He is our club captain and he has been a tremendous leader for us. I think he is growing into his role with England. I know he is going to play in an incredible Test series in Australia.”

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Saracens boss McCall went with Mako Vunipola, the prop who hasn’t played for England since March 2021. “I’d say Mako, the same position, so hopefully he pushes Genge close. Obviously, Mako has had a year where he has not been required for international duty, which has been a hell of a test for him because he is used to being involved.

“He has been phenomenal for our club and particularly during the Six Nations period he took the captaincy of the club for ten weeks and was incredible, not just his playing ability but his influence within the group. He will be close again and I think he deserves it after the way he has played this season.”

Harlequins head coach Matson rounded off the topic. “I hope (Alex) Dombrandt gets on the tour. His journey has been really interesting and different compared to a lot of international players. He is still just finding his feet as a professional.”

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Comments

1 Comment
J
Jonny 758 days ago

Henry Arundell hasn't played anywhere near 50 games for his club. If Eddie Jones hadn't picked him, would Gregor Townsend have waited 50 games? I doubt it.

Nice idea in theory and might work in NZ where Boyd is from but England probably have to operate differently, or lose even more talent players they've developed to their rivals.

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