England coach Stuart Lancaster to treat Six Nations duration as a rest period after warning players are 'absolutely hanging'
Lancaster has warned administrators that the Elite Player Squad members need to be looked after better following a gruelling Lions tour and first half of the domestic season
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has warned rugby’s administrators to look after the top players better, as his team prepare to kick off the Six Nations Championship without eight injured stars.
Lions heroes Manu Tuilagi, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Croft and Geoff Parling are among eight front-line players confirmed as unavailable for the Six Nations opener away to France on 1 February, with Harlequins’ Danny Care an added worry after twisting an ankle in his club’s Heineken Cup match last Saturday.
And Lancaster said some of those who will be facing the French are “absolutely hanging” after a punishing schedule of a Lions tour last summer followed by club and international duty this season.
As a result England will treat the eight-week duration of the Six Nations as a rest period, with the squad given four days off in some weeks instead of training to work on their shortcomings.
Lancaster has previously made little criticism of the agreement between the Rugby Football Union and the Aviva Premiership clubs that governs players’ rest and release periods.
But with a new heads of agreement needing to be negotiated for 2016 and beyond, and the clubs in militant mood regarding the competitions they play in, the national coach aired his concerns over players’ workload.
Marland Yarde, Christian Wade, David Wilson and Ben Foden are the other current internationals out through injury.
“With the number of injured players, we have to continue to reassess the volume of matches they play,” said Lancaster. “The clubs are very good in managing the rotation of players now and that’s a real positive. But eight [injuries] is more than I’ve ever known, and to key men. To lose that many players of quality is a big blow. Corbisiero, Parling, Croft, Manu – four really key men. And there’s the two young wingers [Yarde and Wade], who have just established themselves, but will not have their opportunity.
“In the past it hasn’t stopped our progress, we’ll have to see in France. We’ve got enough players in England.”
Lancaster is hopeful he will preside over a fully fit squad for the crucial pre-World Cup training camp in summer 2015.
He said he would not be involved in the negotiation of the new heads of agreement but would “give his opinion”.
“Our best players are important, to the clubs, to the supporters and to England,” Lancaster said. “So we need to make sure we look after them.
“The Six Nations period for a player is when they get the most rest. It’s five games in eight weeks. In the first week in camp I can give them Thursday afternoon, Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. We play two games and then there’s a fallow week of three days on, four days off. We play Ireland, have another camp with four days off before we face Wales on the following Sunday.
“The southern hemisphere teams have a longer period of time with their players on a consistent basis. The Rugby Championship to the end of their November series is like us going from the Six Nations through to summer tour without the Premiership.
“Currently, there’s a rest period [for England players] over Christmas. Owen Farrell got rested through injury, Chris Robshaw got a good rest after the Six Nations. They’ve all at one point or another had a good rest. [But] within the new heads of agreement, at the forefront of it should be the player, and what’s best for them. Hopefully we’ll find common ground with the clubs. We need a strong international game and a strong club game.”
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