Tom Wood vents anger at tour schedule

tom wood

Northampton flanker Tom Wood was not mincing his words when talking about the weakened side England will have to field for the first test in New Zealand on 1st June.

The game, which was scheduled before current RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie came into office, falls a week after the Premiership final and any players involved in that game are therefore unavailable for it. This could leave England with as many as eight starting XV players missing.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Wood. “It splits your loyalties and it is a question you should never have to ask yourself.

“The reality is that playing for a Premiership final could do you out of an England cap. For some people, that could be their first cap or the difference between getting in the side and cementing your place or not.”

England requested the series to be moved back a week, starting on 14th June. According to the IRB, the June window runs from the ‘second to fourth weekend’ in June – New Zealand argued the weekend of the seventh was the second weekend, despite the one before that containing a date in May (the Saturday is the 31st). New Zealand have resisted the requests to change.

The upshot is that, whatever happens in the semi-finals, England will be without a host of first team players for the first test, somewhat devaluing a series that only contains three matches. The worst scenario would arguably be a Northampton vs Harlequins final, that would rule nine players out of the first test: Mike Brown, Luther Burrell, Danny Care, Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Wood and captain Chris Robshaw.

But even a Saracens v Leicester final would see eight of the likely full strength squad miss out: Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Billy and Mako Vunipola, Geoff Parling, Alex Goode and Chris Ashton.

Whichever way you cut it, it is far from ideal for England in a test series in which they are already facing an uphill struggle. Wood will not be the only player invovled in this weekend’s semi-finals that will be feeling this frustration.

“These are questions you should never have to ask. You should be doing the best you can for your club and playing yourself into contention for your country. The two should never be in conflict.”

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

11 thoughts on “Tom Wood vents anger at tour schedule

  1. You’ve missed out Mako Vunipola, who would surely be on the bench at least. Also with Twelvetrees injured Lancaster may have looked to Barritt in the centres?

      1. It will certainly make for an interesting team for the first test, whoever is in the Prem final.

  2. No idea which idiot signed up to this in the first place, but I do think RFU should have played harder ball to get it moved (maybe this is because I don’t understand the NZ/IRB argument for keeping it where it is) e.g.
    – Option 1: 3 test series starting 14/06
    – Option 2: 2 test series starting 14/06

    Move it or lose it!

    Wood is completely correct, losing the opportunity for that first cap, or to put in a performance that cements you into the shirt is criminal. Lancaster doesn’t generally revert to picking a ‘first choice’ player when they become available if the ‘second choice’ has performed well in his absence, so this could end up seeing some first choice guys missing out on all 3 tests.

  3. The problem comes from the IRB believing that the 1st weekend of June is the 31st of May and the 1st of June, whereas the RFU believes that it’s the last weekend in May (and therefore when the final is played).

    When the IRB sent the schedule to the RFU there was a lot of disruption due to personnel changes and no one replied to the email saying that it would be an issue.

    Since then neither the IRB nor the NZRU have been willing to budge for the last year or so that the RFU has been trying to move them I believe.

  4. One would have imagined that the 3 games are far more important (commercially) to New Zealand than to England, so it is a little odd that England did not push harder to move the first test.

  5. I guess it’s the first test of the summer and that, but if I was a New Zealand fan I wouldn’t be that fussed about seeing an England side without players like Marler, Mako, Hartley, Lawes, Robshaw, Wood, Care, Farrell, Tuilagi, Brown. These are meant to be test matches and taking up to 8 first teamers from an England side who are already missing a few with injuries just isn’t going to test the All Blacks.

    What I find even more annoying is that the ABs are going to get a free shot at us to get their combinations right and shake of the rust. When the Premiership finalists parachute in, any advantage of familiarity from the 6 Nations is gone as the All Blacks will be up and running and we’ll be wondering how to fit everyone in.

    Farcical situation. Even without it the All Blacks would be favourites to take the series, but as we haven’t been there since 2008, it may take another 6 years before we get a chance to have a proper crack at them.

  6. Although I am disappointed with New Zealand’s refusal to budge on the dates, I do think this may be an opportunity for them to experiment with their own team. The first test will always be talked about as a guaranteed win by the All Blacks and if they then win the series 2:1 there will always be talk about how it would be different if England had their full 15 for the first test. If it was me (and I am a England supporter) I would use it as a time to field a relatively inexperienced team myself just to see what happens. Thoughts?

    1. Well unlikely as it may be, this could be a potential banana-skin for the All Blacks. Perhaps not necessarily in terms of the final result but certainly in terms of the performance.

      The England players, some of whom will be 3rd or even 4th choice, will have nothing to lose, and correctly motivated, everything (essentially earning their place the next week) to gain.

      It is easy, as a fan, to view this first test negatively, but if you were in the boots of someone who has had very little England game time previously, this is a fantastic opportunity to show what you can do.

      If players such as (taking a wild guess) Ward, Attwood, Ford, Eastmond, Mullan get a chance to start the first test I am sure they would go into it believing that they can earn that place outright.

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