England would roar again with a team full of Tigers

There are good judges who, having seen Toulouse overwhelm Northampton last Friday, believe that if the French club had been substituted for the France national side they and not Wales would have won the Grand Slam in this year's Six Nations Championship. They would certainly not have allowed Wales to come back into the game in the second half as the French side did in Paris. By a similar criterion, given Leicester's performance against Leinster on Saturday, it can be argued plausibly that England would have performed better in the same competition if they had fielded an entire Tigers side.

There are good judges who, having seen Toulouse overwhelm Northampton last Friday, believe that if the French club had been substituted for the France national side they and not Wales would have won the Grand Slam in this year's Six Nations Championship. They would certainly not have allowed Wales to come back into the game in the second half as the French side did in Paris. By a similar criterion, given Leicester's performance against Leinster on Saturday, it can be argued plausibly that England would have performed better in the same competition if they had fielded an entire Tigers side.

Only two or three changes would have been necessary. Daryl Gibson could not have been picked at centre because of his previous appearance for New Zealand - even in these permissive times, such a qualification would be considered inhibiting. Leon Lloyd would have to come inside to replace him, while Austin Healey would be restored to his rightful place on the wing. Geordan Murphy would, alas, have to go. Among the forwards, the Welsh international Darren Morris would give way to the injured Julian White and the likewise incapacitated Ben Kay would resume as Martin Johnson's partner in the second row.

This is only partly a joke. Historically, international teams built around a successful club side have tended not to come off. Even so, there is a serious point involved.

Andy Robinson was there, in his capacity as an assistant to the Lions head coach, Sir Clive Woodward, rather than in his other role in charge of England. There were several candidates for the trip, the squad for which will be announced next Monday, who impressed, and not only Lewis Moody, Martin Corry and, for Leinster, a more subdued trio of Brian O'Driscoll, Malcolm O'Kelly and Gordon D'Arcy.

There were also two players from Leicester who, only a few months ago, would scarcely have been pencilled in to a list for the New Zealand trip: Andy Goode and Ollie Smith. If Goode and Smith are now candidates for the Lions, why were they not thought worth a place in the starting line-up for England only a few months ago? The question suggests some other questions about Robinson's selection policy.

Then there is Neil Back. He is, in my opinion, lucky to be playing rugby at all, having pushed over the referee, Steve Lander, after the Pilkington Cup in 1996. But playing it he is, and very well too. He fell out with Sir Clive, or Sir Clive fell out with him, but that was no reason why Robinson should not have restored him to No 7.

Not for the first time, the locations of the Heineken Cup semi-finals are causing some difficulty. The rules of the competition say that the top-seeded clubs shall have home advantage, but in a neutral ground with a capacity of over 20,000. Here the clubs are Stade Français and Leicester, though I find it somewhat surprising that the latter are seeded above Toulouse. This is not to say that I think Toulouse are set to win their coming semi-final: merely that the official placing is debatable.

Now the way this has worked out is that Stade Français are playing Biarritz at Parc des Princes in Paris and that, at the time of writing, Leicester are playing Toulouse at the Walkers Stadium in Leicester. By no stretch of language can these be described as neutral venues, even though they happen to be in the correct countries.

The Paris club are playing in Paris, in a stadium next door to their training ground. The Leicester club are playing in Leicester, in a stadium (occupied by Leicester City Football Club) to which they intend to move. Under the present rules, the all-French semi-final should clearly be played at Marseilles, Bordeaux or Toulouse. The English-French match could be played at Twickenham or at a football ground such as Old Trafford.

But it is by no means self-evident that the present rules are just. By chance - because two French teams are meeting - it is perfectly fair that one semi-final should be held in France. But why should Leicester justly receive any home advantage at all, even if it ought to be away from Leicester but nevertheless in England. That semi-final should clearly be held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. And I say this as someone with £100 riding on Leicester at 11-2, odds which have now shortened so that Leicester and Toulouse are joint favourites for the cup.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
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

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album