Aviva Premiership
Monday Maul - A tribute to a dying breed: The one-club man
Tom Hamilton
May 11, 2015

Monday Maul focuses on a dying breed, the indefatigable Thomas Waldrom and the nail-biting finish to the regular Guinness PRO12 and Aviva Premiership seasons.

The endangered species

The one-club man is a dying breed. The 21st round of the Aviva Premiership saw six such endangered species bid farewell to their home ground for the final time. On Friday George Robson, Ugo Monye and Tom Williams bid adieu to the Twickenham Stoop and on Saturday it was Wasps' Tom Lindsay and Sale's Mark Cueto and Marc Jones' turn to acknowledge their home support for the final time.

For Monye and Cueto retirement awaits. Williams' future is unclear but he leaves Quins with a momentous 214 appearances to his name. Lindsay, Robson and Jones are heading to pastures new with Gloucester, Oyonnax and Bristol, respectively, ready to welcome them next season.

Their collective departure leaves an ever-decreasing number of the much heralded one-club man in the Premiership. Nineteen is the number of players aged 26 and over who have had a contract with just one side since they turned professional. This number includes those like Alex Goode and Matt Banahan who had spells in different academies before signing their first professional deals with their current sides where they remain to this day.

There are others who will join that club in the next year - Saracens have a batch with George Kruis and Will Fraser knocking on the door - but for the time being our self-appointed cut off at 26 sees just 19 remain.

At Bath you have Nathan Catt and Banahan, the latter was part of London Irish's academy before making his professional debut at the Rec. For Gloucester they boast Nick Wood, Henry Trinder and Tom Savage. Harlequins contribute three: Mark Lambert, Jordan Turner-Hall and Mike Brown. Leicester offer four: Tom Youngs - recognising his loan spell at Nottingham - Dan Cole, Tom Croft and Matt Smith.

Then there are the London Irish duo Topsy Ojo and David Paice. Newcastle's one-club stalwarts are Alex Tait and Rob Vickers. For Northampton, their one-club man is Courtney Lawes; Saracens' is Goode and Wasps' Joe Simpson.

There are other players who fall into the category of club icons - Nick Easter and Tom Johnson to name but two though their careers started elsewhere - but the above group suggest there is an increasing migration in the modern game. With the offer of lucrative swansongs in France and other opportunities abroad, the number of players who stay at a single club for their entire career will continue to decrease.

The indefatigable Thomas Waldrom

Exeter No.8 Waldrom is unlikely to make the final 31-man England squad for the Rugby World Cup but that should not take anything away from what has been a remarkable season from the ex-Tiger. He may yet feature in the training squad but for all the talk of Steffon Armitage's form for Toulon, Exeter boast two back-rowers in the form of their lives. Waldrom's claims to a spot in the England squad are aided by his remarkable try-scoring ability. His double against Saracens were his 15th and 16th scores in the Premiership this season but if Stuart Lancaster's selection policy to date is anything to go by he will find himself behind Ben Morgan (if fit), Billy Vunipola and Nick Easter in the No.8 pecking order.

And then there is his back-row comrade Dave Ewers. He has been the in-form blindside this season and England know him well having had a look at him in the past when he has been picked for the Saxons. He should be the World Cup bolter.

Play-offs set for box office finish

It is how it should be. Both the Guinness PRO12 and Premiership's play-offs are going down to the final day. The PRO12 is on a knife edge. With just one point separating the top four, the battle for home semi-finals is going to be fascinating. The match of the weekend looks to be at Scotstoun where Glasgow host Ulster. Ulster are currently in fourth but with the top three just a single point ahead, they know a commanding win may yet secure them a home semi-final - a PRO12 final appearance has added significance given it is at the Kingspan Stadium this season.

And then there are the Ospreys. Written-off pre-season, their brilliant captain Alun Wyn Jones has helped take them to the upper echelons of the table but a win away at Connacht - something far easier said than done - could book them a home semi-final. Completing the quartet are Munster who host the Dragons. They too are on 70 points. It is a fascinating finish.

In the Premiership the home semi-finals are already sorted with Northampton and Bath benefiting from familiar surroundings but the other two places are still there for the taking with Leicester, Exeter and Saracens all targeting them. Saracens have the easiest of the final games as they travel to London Welsh, a team they should rack up a cricket score against, while Exeter host Sale and Leicester welcome, of all teams, Northampton. The Saints' team selection will come in for scrutiny later this week as with a home semi-final already sorted, Jim Mallinder could be forgiven for resting some of their key players. But the significance of an East Midlands derby sometimes outweighs logic. The Saints would love to be the ones to block Leicester's passage to the play-off.

© Tom Hamilton

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.