Goode endorses French sojourn
May 28, 2009
Andy Goode's time in France has revitalised his international career © Getty Images
England fly-half Andy Goode is preparing to take on the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday and is determined to put down a marker ahead of the impending two-Test series against Argentina.
Goode has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround since packing his bags and leaving Leicester Tigers at the end of last season, with his international aspirations reinvigorated by a move to French Top 14 side Brive. Goode won his first international cap since 2006 during this season's Six Nations and believes that the glut of English players heading overseas has to be seen as a positive for English rugby.
Jonny Wilkinson, James Haskell, Riki Flutey, Tom Palmer, Tom May, Jamie Noon and Iain Balshaw, to name a few, are all heading for France this summer under a cloud of controversy generated by the RFU's condemnation of foreign moves and potential damage to the prized Elite Player Squad (EPS) agreement. Goode has nothing but good things to say however.
"It's not 50 players as the amount of attention seems to say it is," he said. "There's a few in the England squad going over but I've got nothing but good things to say about my experiences at Brive. Brive have released me to play for England and train with England when they didn't have to under IRB regulations. As a lifestyle it's second to none.
"There's a balance, if it's 50 players moving then English rugby has a problem. At the moment it's a handful, Johnno will pick the EPS squad on July 1 and the guys in France won't come under the agreement. One thing that will do is enable Johnno to have a bigger squad. If he wants to include five or six players that are playing in France then he's got 38 or so players instead of 32.
"In England , you also might see younger guys coming through. Take Tom May and Jamie Noon at Newcastle, there's going to be two younger English guys coming through which will benefit the game. I've had a very positive experience at Brive and it has benefited my game."
With so much activity going on behind the scenes, Goode was honest when asked about his French sojourn by fellow England players. He will soon be joined at Brive by Noon and Flutey, with hooker Steve Thompson also at the club and enjoying a recall in to the international arena for the first time since England's Six Nations loss to Ireland at Twickenham in 2006.
"Quite a few of the lads talked to me," he said. "We've got Jamie Noon and Riki Flutey coming to Brive. James Haskell asked me a lot of questions about life in France although I didn't know too much about Stade Francais. I can talk very positively about the way Brive have treated me and looked after me, but at other clubs it might be a different scenario. As a life experience it has been fantastic."
With Wilkinson having touched down in Toulon and charmed the club's fans with his fluent French, there could soon be a battle for the England fly-half jersey taking place on French soil. With Danny Cipriani apparently out of favour and Wilkinson, Goode and May all playing in the Top 14 then England could well be reliant on their foreign legion.
"Jonny's going to Toulon, who have signed quite a few high-profile players and will be looking to push for a top six position next year," said Goode. " I was looking forward to playing Jonny twice this year when we played Newcastle in the Challenge Cup but unfortunately for Jonny he was injured. Hopefully over the summer he'll get fit and I'll look forward to a couple of good games against him in the league."
Before he can turn his attention to Wilkinson and Toulon, Goode will concern himself with facing the Barbarians this weekend and the fiercely competitive Pumas at Old Trafford on June 6.
"Every player that got the starting shirt has got to put down a marker on Saturday. Johnno and the coaches are very honest and will say 'here's your chance, if you take it you'll keep it, if you don't we'll change it up'. The Baa-Baas, there's less pressure on them, they'll go out and enjoy the game. They've got a good backline with Gordon D'Arcy and Josh Lewsey in the centre, with a point to prove.
"There's a few ways of looking at the Argentina Tests. The last time we played Argentina they beat us at Twickenham. These are full blooded Test matches, the Argentineans never play a friendly Test match. We need to continue what we started in the Six Nations."
Tickets for the England v Barbarians match are priced from £10 for Juniors (Under 16) and £25 for adults and are available from www.ticketmaster.co.uk or by calling 0844 8472492.
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.