Interested parties: how the problem affects those at all levels

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The promising young player unable to command a first-team place

Nick Greenstock (Wasps)

Last season Greenstock's prolific scoring and prodigious pace caught the eye of the powers that be, and despite not being picked for Wasps' first team he is in the England training squad. His preferred position is in the centre but, last season, Wasps played him on the wing.

He says: "I feel very frustrated. Perhaps a loan transfer system might work, allowing players in my situation who need first-team rugby in the First Division to play temporarily for clubs nearby. In my case perhaps Saracens or Harlequins.

"I didn't get into the Emerging England side through Wasps, I did it through the Divisional Championship, because I had been injured for the eight weeks prior to the Divisionals. I think the Emerging was an excellent set-up. It certainly helped me a great deal. I am in the current England training squad on the strength of my performances for the Emerging side. They now say they will turn England A into a development squad, but there is going to be nowhere for the experienced older players, who have lost their form, to try out. I would imagine they will use England A to prove their form and fitness, either that or they will just disappear from the scene altogether. Whatever, it would seem that younger players would suffer."

The established player fighting off all challengers

Brian Moore


Moore has won 64 England caps - 63 at hooker, a record. He rescinded a decision to retire earlier this year because he felt there was still opportunity for him to add to his collection of caps. His only serious rival for the No 2 shirt has been Bath's Graham Dawe and Moore can see no younger challenger appearing over the horizon.

He says: "The Rugby Football Union's initiative in persuading certain flankers at certain clubs - Martin Pepper at Harlequins and Gareth Adams at Bath - was taken only 12 months ago. And these people who are changing to hooker now need at least three seasons in the First Division before they are anywhere near ready.

"Ordinarily a player who is a natural hooker would take three seasons at First Division level to be ready to be regarded as a prospective international. If you are having to change position as well it compounds the problem, so it takes that extra season. Probably four years in all.

"I must admit the fact that there are no young challengers for my England place is great for me. I'm not complaining. The prospective hookers now - the converted flankers - will still have time before the next World Cup in 1999, having served their apprenticeship, to gain adequate international experience."

The coach with an eye on England's future

Richard Hill

(England A asst coach)

Richard Hill, coach of the now defunct Emerging England, current assistant coach to England A as well as director of coaching at Gloucester, agrees with Jack Rowell that certain positions lack challengers and cites the unchanged England side as a cause. He also highlights the contemporaneous careers of Stuart Barnes and Rob Andrew, David Egerton and Dean Richards, which saw good talent going to waste.

He says: "I thought the Emerging England set-up worked. At the time it was scrapped I was puzzled. It seemed to launch a few careers such as Tony Diprose, Rory Jenkins, John Sleightholme and Nick Greenstock.

"I thought it was a very good springboard. Everyone was enthusiastic and there were no prima donnas. But I can understand perhaps that there were lots of other reasons why it had to go, one of them was finding fixtures.

"I think this year the England A side has to be a side of more potential England first-team players. You always need one or two older heads but if you get too large a proportion of seasoned players it would not be the way forward. By the same token it would be counter-productive to have an England A side filled with 21 and 22-year-olds."

The administrator responsible for the game at all levels

Don Rutherford

(RFU technical director)

Don Rutherford is a staunch advocate of player development and was supportive of the Emerging England concept. He denies there is a crisis and emphasises that Rowell highlighted only certain positions where there was a lack of talent coming through.

He says: "In an ideal world I would have been quite happy for Emerging England to have continued, but I think this [amalgamation with England A] is a reasonable compromise. Where Jack says there is a paucity you have to be specific.

"For example we appear to be short of wings. John Sleightholme is in and out of the Bath side on a rota, Jim Naylor is probably not quite ready yet. It is a measure of England's success that there is a paucity in certain positions. If you have a hooker such as Brian Moore - and it has happened in that position quite frequently, where you have somebody in possession - then the people behind do not get any opportunities.

"Suddenly you find the top man is about to go and there is a gap between the standard that had been achieved by that one player and the rest. Rob Andrew is another who has been in possession for a long time and it is very difficult for the next wave of players to gain any experience at that level."