STEVE PILGRIM believes his one-year ban for playing in a rugby league trial in February 1993 had a hidden benefit. It gave him a much needed break from the hurly-burly of competitive rugby. This is something Pilgrim's Wasps club-mate, Rob Andrew, and the rest of the England squad could do with. Time off from a relentless schedule.
There are 42 hard Saturdays between now and the World Cup final in Johannesburg on 24 June and by then, if England get that far, Andrew and his colleagues may well be tempted to slip up north for a professional trial and the consequent year off.
Andrew's season began with an undemanding friendly against Irish First Division side Instonians at Sudbury, a match in which Pilgrim was unable to take part, owing to a pulled thigh muscle. Andrew appeared to enjoy himself. If some of his place kicking was a little rusty (three successful kicks in seven attempts), all other aspects of his game looked in reasonable shape.
But Andrew is fearful for what lies ahead unless the England management's proposal to reduce the commitment of the international players to their clubs in the final couple of months of the season, currently being considered, is accepted. Andrew, after the eight-try romp, said: 'The most difficult area is towards the end of the season because after the Five Nations' Championship there are four League and two Cup games to the end of the season. If your club is in contention at one end of the League or the other, or in the Cup, then you face six tough games. As an England squad member you can do without that in the run-up to the World Cup.
'There is a question of loyalty, though. We are trying to find a way where the squad members play in two or three of those last six games. You don't want to go into the World Cup having had eight weeks off, equally you don't want to go there absolutely knackered as we did this summer.'
At least Andrew got off to a gentle start against the Belfast club, although England hopeful Damian Hopley did not seem to want to spare himself.
Wasps: Tries Hopley 2, Delaney, Hunter 2, Scrivener, James, Dunn; Conversions Andrew 2, Hopley; Penalty Andrew. Instonians: Penalty Laing.
Wasps: A Maddock; S Hunter, G Childs, D Hopley, A James; R Andrew, S Bates (capt); G Holmes, P Delaney (K Dunn, 40), I Dunston, M Greenwood, R Kinsey, L Dallaglio, C Wilkins, P Scrivener.
Instonians: G McCausland; I Gray (N Moffett, 64), K Crossan, A Hewitt, S Burrowes; S Laing, N Robson; A Neeson, A Adair, G Bell (capt), C Hamilton (R Duncan, 39), C Gallagher, S Crothers, D Suffern, J Kernohan.
Referee: C Rees (London Society).Reuse content