Andrew urges Woodward to give stars a break
January 31, 2000
England coach Clive Woodward has been warned to fear the worst when his players assemble for Six Nations duty this week.
Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio admits he would relish "48 hours off", fellow forward Neil Back ran out of gas during the weekend's Tetley's Bitter Cup action, and ex England fly-half Rob Andrew believes Woodward should take his squad to the South of Spain for a pre-tournament break.
While the Cup produced some thrilling fifth round encounters, notably London Irish's 47-7 demolition of Leicester, Northampton pipping Saracens and cup holders Wasps edging out Newcastle 36 30, attention has switched to England's shattered players.
A punishing three games in a week schedule has taken its inevitable toll and Woodward will be left to reassemble the pieces.
"I am in the same shape as any flanker who has played three games in a week or so," said Dallaglio, a try scorer as Wasps booked a comfortable home quarter-final clash against second division Manchester.
"Rugby is a one game a week sport. If you look at the southern hemisphere, then you cannot compare like with like you don't get three Super 12 games in the build-up to a major international".
Newcastle boss Andrew, chairman of the Rugby Football Union taskforce charged with finding a workable fixture schedule, has every sympathy for Woodward.
"All the England players are on their knees Clive would do well to get them on a plane and take them to the south of Spain," he said.
Although the adrenaline will get them going for next weekend, the batteries are flat," he added.
"We are having no regard for the welfare of the players, rugby is now a very physical, almost brutal, game.
"We don't have that many world class players, but when we've got one, all we do is smash him about. I don't want someone like Jonny Wilkinson to pack up when he's 26 but it is just crazy we cannot carry on like this."
Leicester flanker Back underlined Andrew's point, leaving the fray five minutes before half-time against Irish because one of England's fittest players had no fuel left in his prodigious tank.
"God only know why we are playing three games in seven days the week before the Six Nations starts," said Irish rugby director Dick Best, whose team ran out 47-7 winners.
"Someone somewhere must be accountable. It must never happen again players are fitter and stronger now, the collisions harder and the knocks greater, so recovery time takes longer.
"How England prepare for the Ireland game next Saturday is going to be very, very interesting. They are going to have to be very careful because there re guys out there who are dead on their eet."
Irish were rewarded for their five-try emolition of Leicester the Tiger's heaviest ever Cup defeat with a home ie against Gloucester, comfortable 54-12 inners against second division trugglers Orrell.
While Wasps host Manchester, courtesy f quarter-final matchwinner Kenny Logan pulling out of a home tie in the uarter-final draw, premiership leaders Northampton also face second division pponents.
The Saints travel to London Welsh, aving pipped Saracens 34-32 in a icarage Road thriller, and Bristol will lso feel confident of a quarter final lace, having secured home advantage gainst Harlequins.
While Bristol sent Sale packing from the Memorial Stadium, below par Quins unconvincingly despatched North Two minnows Darlington Mowden Park, offering little to suggest they can stop the West Country outfit's
Quarter-final draw: Wasps v Manchester, London Welsh v Northampton, Bristol v
Ties to be played on February 26 and 27
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton