A summer we could all have done without

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I hope the unions realise the dangers of dispatching their players on tours around the world. It might help the finances but it is going to take seasons off the players' careers. I am convinced that at this rate the present crop will not last as long as previous generations.

I hope the unions realise the dangers of dispatching their players on tours around the world. It might help the finances but it is going to take seasons off the players' careers. I am convinced that at this rate the present crop will not last as long as previous generations.

I will excuse Wales from that criticism. Their development tour of Canada this summer is likely to produce a positive result. The squad consists mainly of younger players, together with some senior men who have been on the fringe of the main squad.

The rugby will not be too demanding and the very promising youngsters coming through the Welsh system at the moment can be assessed for their attitude, mental toughness and ability to blend into new patterns of play. That will beinvaluable.

Meanwhile, the top Welsh players will be having a well-earned rest and will return for next season in much better shape than their counterparts, who are being asked to put their tired minds and bodies through yet more pressure; and needless pressure at that.

What with the World Cup and the build-up to it, we have had a long and demanding year and with the Lions going to Australia next summer our top men would have benefited tremendously from a long break this year. It is as much a mental necessity as a physical one.

I feel particularly sorry for Scotland, who are off on a suicide mission to New Zealand for no good reason at all. They are not a good team at the moment and I fear they will return with their morale shattered, not to mention a few bones.

I can speak with some authority because this is what happened to Wales when we went to New Zealand in 1987. We had just won the Triple Crown and had had nothing like as tough a club season as the Scots have had. The All Blacks gave us a severe hammering, our coaches Tony Gray and Derek Quinnell were fired and it took us years to recover from it.

And we were a far better team then than Scotland are at the moment. Apart from that glorious day when they beat England at Murrayfield, the Scots have not had a good season on the international front or at club level. At Murrayfield on Wednesday night, the Barbarians slaughtered them in the first half. The Scots showed a lot of character to make a game of it in the second half, but I wince at the thought of them facing New Zealand.

The All Blacks will still be smarting at their disappointment in the Rugby World Cup and will be busting to prove a point. The fact that Canterbury have just won the Super 12s shows how much on form they are. No wonder the bookies are not even taking bets on the outcome.

England will also face a tough ride in South Africa. The South Africans did not have a good World Cup either and smashing England would be pleasant compensation for them. I don't think the English players either need or deserve that sort of conflict after the season they have had at all levels.

They may well take the opportunity to blood some youngsters but the dangers awaiting them far outweigh any advantages to be gained from the tour.

Ireland, who played Argentina yesterday and travel to play the United States next week, are not involved against anything like such fearsome opposition as England and Scotland, but they have faced tough games and they certainly did not need such a long haul.

It was good to see an attractive Baa-Baas team in action against Scotland - wouldn't it have been a better idea for our international sides to have stayed home and played a couple of games against them. The unions could have pocketed some useful gate money, we could have seen some entertaining, non-violent, rugby and maybe picked up a few Lions pointers in the process.

Better that than volunteering to face the firing squads.

Comments