Sir Clive Woodward: The ‘sad reality’ of England’s player stocks

Jared Wright
England head coach Steve Borthwick and ex-boss Sir Clive Woodward and centre Henry Slade.

England head coach Steve Borthwick and ex-boss Sir Clive Woodward and centre Henry Slade.

Sir Clive Woodward believes that England “can’t afford” to not select world-class talents plying their trade outside of the Premiership, and their Six Nations form is proof of that.

The 2003 World Cup-winning head coach has taken aim at the current player stocks in England and the Rugby Football Union’s policy not to select overseas-based players.

The sad reality

The former coach believes that none of Steve Borthwick’s current players would start for any other international side or make a World XV or even Scotland’s team – whom the Red Rose lost 30-21 to last weekend.

However, he adds that this isn’t all Borthwick’s doing and has stuck much of the blame on his predecessor, Eddie Jones, of whom Woodward has been a huge critic.

“The current state of the England side is far from all down to Borthwick. We have to remember he’s only been in the job a little over a year,” Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column.

“The RFU and Borthwick’s predecessor Eddie Jones have more than played their part. You can tell you’ve got a good side at your disposal if a handful of your players would get in any international team.

“The sad reality for England is I’m not sure any of theirs would right now. In fact, I don’t think many of England’s players would even get into the Scotland side.”

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England’s lack of world-class players

The 68-year-old believes that five England players are “world-class”, but due to the RFU’s selection policy, two are ineligible for the Red Rose as they are contracted to Top 14 clubs, while another has made himself unavailable.

“To add insult to injury, three of England’s five world-class players are not available to play in the Six Nations. It’s crazy. When they are fit and firing,” he added.

“I think Owen Farrell (playing as a fly-half), Henry Arundell, Jack Willis, Marcus Smith and Itoje would push hard to get into most teams. But Farrell, Arundell and Willis are currently ineligible. English rugby can’t afford to have its best players unavailable. The results are showing why.”

Farrell opted to put his international career on hold and has signed a deal to join Racing 92 next season, which will further extend his Test rugby hiatus unless the policies change.

He will join Arundell at the Parisian club after the outside back opted to sign a long-term deal with the side, while flanker Willis also extended his time with Toulouse after joining the club following Wasps’ collapse.

READ MORE: Ex-England international calls for Steve Borthwick’s and four players’ heads