It is not yet official policy but Jack Rowell, the England manager, said yesterday that the RFU had told him to get on and manage as he saw fit. He also made it clear that he means to get his way. 'The so-called structured season has made no allowance for World Cup commitments,' he said.
'The elite players cannot cope with such an intensive league competition, cup competition, divisionals and internationals.' If they're not going to be burned out they would have to be left out of games for their own good, or they won't last the course.'
Rowell denied that he regarded it as a resignation issue and instead, taking stock after the 27-9 victory with which the Springboks squared the series, he emphasised his determination to see it through to his return to South Africa in 12 months. 'There is no point in us turning up for the World Cup unless we are fit and fresh,' he said. 'When we get here next year we have to hit the ground running. If we do what we did this year, we won't be hanging around for long.'
England came on this tour within days of the completion of an averagely punishing season and lost four of their five matches in the lead-up to the first Test. They won only three of eight tour fixtures, a record Rowell yesterday put down to an excess of rugby over the past nine months.
The tour ended on an acid note when Louis Luyt, president of the South African RFU, complained that Will Carling, the England captain, had throughout the tour refused to shake his hand and bade a farewell to Rowell that was more of a good-riddance. The England manager has consistently poked fun at the omnipotent Luyt, who was determined to take his last chance to get his own back.
Rowell had wondered how the capacity of Ellis Park, Johannesburg, could be extended to 80,000 from the 70,000 which it will be by the World Cup, and Luyt said he had found the answer: stick big Jack on top of either the north or south stands and open his mouth. The jibe fell as flat as the top of Table Mountain with Luyt's Capetonian audience.