McGeechan blasts England selection rules

Wasps chief Ian McGeechan has hit out at the rules which force English clubs to rest England players for Guinness Premiership games even though the clubs are being compensated.

Under the current agreement between the clubs and the Rugby Football Union members of the 32-man Elite Player Squad (EPS) are restricted to 32 matches a season.

A few years ago a prominent South African fitness specialist Tim Noakes suggested that players who play more than 26 games in a season will suffer in performance.

“We will support England but we just look for a bit of support,” McGeechan told the BBC.

London Wasps won the Guinness Premiership last season and this season they are struggling in the lower half of the table. Due to their success last season Wasps make up a large portion of the EPS squad which was largely chosen in June last year.

“You don’t go very far if you are just sticking to regulations all the time.”

The deal, which began on 1 July last year, stipulates that players in the EPS are rested for one league game between rounds nine and 11.

Wasps had nine players named in the original EPS squad last year, and McGeechan believes they are being penalised for their policy of recruiting England-qualified players.

McGeechan followed the rules last week when his team played Sale on Boxing Day and Wasps were smashed 31-3.

For this weekend’s clash he recalled James Haskell, Tom Rees, Phil Vickery and Danny Cipriani – who had been promoted to the EPS after originally being named in the Saxons squad as he recovered from a serious ankle injury.

Quins stars Nick Easter and Ugo Monye both played in England’s November Tests after coming in for injured players, but because they were not named in the original EPS McGeechan says the ruling does not apply to them.

“I don’t understand how some players can play four internationals and be available for all three Premiership games – and other players who only played two internationals have to be rested for one game,” said McGeechan.

“They tell me if you are officially in the EPS squad it makes a difference – but that is not player welfare.

“If you have played four internationals in the autumn the rest now is supposed to stop all that backing up.

“If it is such a big thing let’s have an even playing field because we are getting screwed off the field and screwed by what we can put on it at times.

“If you live by contracts you lose the whole essence of what you try to do. What irritates me is that we do look after our players.”

Adding to McGeechan’s England headache, England doctor Mike Bundy’s ruled out winger Paul Sackey with an ankle injury on Saturday.

“We will be following up the process. I wasn’t happy with the process,” he added.

“They asked him to do a fitness test and as a result of that we agreed to withdraw him.

“Sackey believes he was fitter on Saturday than he was before the South Africa Test in November.”

McGeechan’s views are supported by former Australia and South Africa assistant coach and now Saracens director of rugby Eddie Jones who on Saturday blasted the rules after his side lost to Gloucester without the services of Steve Borthwick.

England captain Borthwick was prevented from playing because manager Martin Johnson wanted him rested.

Jones said: “I think it is ridiculous that you don’t have your best English players playing in the Premiership.

“It is almost a contradiction. You should have your best players playing.”

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