English Rugby
McGeechan angered by EPS restraints
January 5, 2009
Wasps Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan looks on during the Guinness Premiership against Saracens at Adams Park in High Wycombe, England on December 20, 2008.
McGeechan's side got their Premiership campaign back on track with victory over Harlequins at Adams Park © Getty Images

Wasps boss Ian McGeechan has launched a scathing attack on the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Premier Rugby accusing them of failing to ensure player welfare.

McGeechan went on the attack following Wasps' impressive 24-18 Guinness Premiership victory over Harlequins at Adams Park insisting that his side were getting "screwed" on and off the field.

Wasps' anger was directed at the loop-hole in the England elite squad (EPS) agreement that forced them to make wholesale changes for Sunday's clash but allowed Harlequins to field internationals Nick Easter and Ugo Monye.

The agreement, that came into force on July 1 last year, states that all EPS members had to be rested for one Guinness Premiership game between rounds 9 and 11 and Wasps opted to rest many of their stars last week when they were crushed 31-3 by Sale Sharks.

Easter and Monye played all four England Tests in the autumn but, as McGeechan understands it, they do not officially count as EPS members because they were technically injury replacements and therefore free to play throughout the busy festive season.

McGeechan believes Wasps are suffering unfairly from the fact their side contains so many England internationals and he does not think it is fair on those Quins players either.

"I don't understand how some players can play four internationals and be available for all three Premiership games - and other players who only played two internationals have to be rested for one game," said McGeechan. "They tell me if you are officially in the EPS squad it makes a difference - but that is not player welfare. If you have played four internationals in the autumn the rest now is supposed to stop all that backing up.

"If it is such a big thing let's have an even playing field because we are getting screwed off the field and screwed by what we can put on it at times. There has to be flexibility both sides and Premier Rugby have to be flexible just as England have to be. You don't go very far if you are just sticking to regulations all the time. If you live by contracts you lose the whole essence of what you try to do.

"We will support England to the nth degree, that is what we are about, but we just look for a bit of support a well. What irritates me is that we do look after our players."

McGeechan's frustration with the agreement reached a new level before kick off with the late enforced loss of winger Paul Sackey who, despite being passed fit to play by Wasps medics, was withdrawn on the request of England doctor Mike Bundy who had concerns over an ankle injury.

"The England physio decided Sackey wasn't fit to play yesterday morning," said McGeechan. "We will be following up the process. I wasn't happy with the process. They asked him to do a fitness test and as a result of that we agreed to withdraw him. He (Sackey) believes he was fitter yesterday than he was before the South Africa Test in November."

McGeechan's outburst follows a similar line of attack from Saracens boss Eddie Jones who was stripped of England skipper Steve Borthwick for their narrow 22-16 loss to Gloucester.

"The thing I don't understand is how can you not have your best players playing every week in the Premiership?," Jones said in the build-up to their Kingsholm clash. "Why do you have an Elite Playing Squad that takes your best players out of the Premiership? So next week we have to take Borthwick out.

"To me that's ridiculous. I'd rather take him out of the Challenge cup game. We should have our best players playing every game. It's just crazy. So Borthwick's got to sit on the sidelines and twiddle his thumbs. He could twiddle his thumbs against Mont de Marsan, probably have a nice coffee and croissant and watch the boys win by 30 points. Why leave him out of the game against Gloucester where you pit him against Alex Brown and see how good he is?

"It should be about the welfare of the players. Look at Borthwick. He needs a week off before the Six Nations. What sensible point? Mont de Marsan or Viadana at home two weeks before the Six Nations. You think it's going to be good for Borthwick's rugby to miss next week? No way. There have got to be better ways to do it."

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