American amateurs out to make a point against the Saxons

The Saracens prop Matt Stevens has every chance of moving onwards and upwards, the Gloucester captain Luke Narraway and his Bath-bound former colleague Dave Attwood remain semi-optimistic, and there are a couple of others – the Harlequins full-back Mike Brown, for instance – who are clinging to the driftwood of their hopes and dreams, but for the vast majority of the England Saxons, who open their Churchill Cup campaign against the United States in Northampton this evening, the here and now is all that matters.

When Martin Johnson, the England manager, names his training squad for the forthcoming World Cup in New Zealand, it will be full of people not playing in this tournament. The Americans? They're in a different place entirely. All those on show at Franklin's Gardens can legitimately think of themselves as World Cup contenders, with only five front-line players missing because of Premiership regulations on player access.

Two Saracens, the highly effective flexi-back Chris Wyles and lock Hayden Smith, are not available to the former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan, who will take the Eagles to All Black country in September. Nor is Leeds' Mike MacDonald. The super-rapid Biarritz wing Takudzwa Ngwenya is resting, while O'Sullivan has decided against picking the second-rower Samu Manoa, who has just signed for Saints. "Samu's deal at Franklin's Gardens doesn't begin until the start of July and if he got himself injured now, he could lose his contract," the coach explained. "The other England-based players are not with us because their clubs won't release them this early ... in fairness, that probably suits me because I know a lot about them already. It's good that I can concentrate on finding out more about others, because the last place I need to find out about them is in New Zealand."

O'Sullivan spent long enough coaching in rugby's elite tier to understand the advantages of professionalism. "The game in the States is amateur, and while everyone thinks we can just tap into the people who don't quite make it in American football, the reality is different," he continued. "When we approach them and tell them they'd be playing for free, they say: 'Why would I want to put my body through all that for nothing when I've just been paid for doing it?'.

"We have excellent athletes in our squad. What we don't have is a structure that gives them a high level of rugby week on week. That's why something like this is a big deal for us."

Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015