Saracens coach questions RFU handling of absent England players
Alex Austerberry, the Saracens head coach, has called on the Rugby Football Union to offer greater clarity over its World Cup return-to-play protocols after his England internationals were deemed unavailable for a second week running in the Premier 15s.
Saracens were outclassed by high-flying Gloucester-Hartpury at the StoneX Stadium on Saturday as the visitors continued their remarkable unbeaten start to the league by recording their first-ever win over the league champions.
While Austerberry made no excuses for the crushing 53-7 defeat – his side’s worst on record in the Premier 15s – he lamented the fact that several of his key players remained unavailable following the World Cup.
A week on from his side’s 19-10 defeat to rivals Harlequins – after which Austerberry described the unavailability of England players as an “own goal” – Poppy Cleall, Zoe Harrison and Marlie Packer were among those who were ruled out of Saturday’s fixture as part of a phased return to action following the tournament in New Zealand.
Every England player was given two weeks of mandatory rest after the side fell agonisingly short to New Zealand in a historic final on November 12, with the RFU determining the date for their return to domestic action based on “multiple quantitative and qualitative factors”.
“We understand it’s [to do with] higher exposures, 메이저놀이터 higher minutes, but I’ve not seen what that’s down to in terms of data,” said Austerberry, who was able to welcome back Holly Aitchison last weekend.
“I am disappointed with the interactions and the rationale that’s been shared with us as a club – it might be different across some of the other clubs. We’ve asked questions and not necessarily got the answers with the underpinning science behind them. That’s where it’s disappointing. The engagement between England and club [level] has to be better.”
Harlequins duo Rosie Galligan, Loughborough’s Sadia Kabeya and Exeter’s Claudia Macdonald have all been able to feature in the new campaign due to their status as non-centrally contracted players.
The RFU insists it has been in “regular contact” with Premier 15s clubs about World Cup return-to-play protocols and communicated these prior, during and after the tournament. “This was updated as more data became available and the performance team could make decisions on the individual players’ return to domestic rugby,” the RFU said in a statement.
Austerberry, however, claims there has been a lack of transparency from the governing body and insisted there had been a reluctance to share player data. “When there’s doubt and you’re not quite in the know, that’s when you ask questions. If you don’t get answers, that’s when you’re disappointed. That’s where the frustrations lie,” he said.
“I have every faith that England are making the decisions with the best interests at heart and ultimately we all want player welfare to be at the forefront. I just think that information could have been disseminated better.”