Harlequins have tried playing it by the book – only two foreign internationals in a squad overflowing with bright, young, home-grown, English-qualified talent – but there are no prizes for moral rectitude in professional rugby. Their slide down the Premiership rankings has hit them hard, hence the move to install a 34-year-old Welsh prop alongside an Australian lock who is not getting any younger either.
Adam Jones, a two-tour Test Lion considered past his best by Wales – he announced his international retirement after missing the cut for the Six Nations – will move to the Stoop from Cardiff Blues at the end of the season. When the World Cup concludes in October, he will be joined by James Horwill, the Wallaby forward from Queensland who hits 30 in May.
As Quins are also being strongly linked with a second Welsh Lion in the 28-year-old centre Jamie Roberts, whose spell with the Parisian side Racing Métro is widely assumed to be nearing its end, it is clear that the club who have gone furthest in doing their bit for Queen and country by fast-tracking academy graduates into elite rugby are looking to spend their way out of trouble.
If the popular Jones gets himself up to speed and nails down a regular first-team place – and why wouldn’t he, given his vast scrummaging know-how? – there will inevitably be fewer opportunities for the likes of Kyle Sinckler and Will Collier, both of whom have been given mentions in dispatches by the England head coach, Stuart Lancaster, in recent times. With the salary cap on the rise and big names looking for a post-World Cup pay day, this could be the thin end of a very thick wedge.
Conor O’Shea, the director of rugby at Quins, was quick to head off criticism by stressing Jones’ value in an educational role. “It’s apparent that Adam wants to keep going for some time,” he said, “and the work he will do in supporting and pushing our young tight-head props – Kyle, Will, Matt Shields – will benefit us for years to come. He is a world-class forward and we cannot wait to get him involved.”
Over in Wales, there was a good deal of gloom. Despite the introduction of dual contracts jointly financed by the governing body and the professional regions two other Test Lions, the wing Alex Cuthbert and the No 8 Toby Faletau, may well be on the move. Cuthbert’s plans are unclear, but Faletau is being linked with a move from Newport-Gwent Dragons to Bath, who appear to have been priced out of the race for the powerful Springbok back-rower Duane Vermeulen.
The impressive Scotland centre Alex Dunbar has next to no chance of recovering from serious knee ligament damage in time for the World Cup in September. He was injured in training ahead of the Calcutta Cup match and will not be fit for six to nine months.
Wasps travel to table-topping Northampton for Friday night’s Premiership match without their captain, James Haskell, who is being rested after the Six Nations, and the injured Andy Goode at outside-half. The exciting Alex Lozowksi will play at No 10.
The reigning champions will start with two senior England forwards, the hooker Dylan Hartley and the lock Courtney Lawes, along with the flanker Tom Wood, who played against France off the bench six days ago.Reuse content