Less is more for Dallaglio
February 1, 2000

Lawrence Dallaglio believes England's injured stars are paying the price for the northern hemisphere's crazy rugby calendar.

Paul Grayson became the sixth major casualty to drop out of Clive Woodward's squad through injury, ahead of Saturday's Six Nations opener against Ireland, at Twickenham.

And the former England skipper is convinced his international colleagues are suffering the after-effects of a gruelling year on the rugby circuit.

"After the World Cup, the southern hemisphere went straight into a rest but we went straight into our season and it's proved very difficult," said Dallaglio.

England, eager to prove they have learned the lessons of a disappointing World Cup, are already without skipper Martin Johnson, Danny Grewcock, Kyran Bracken, David Rees and Dan Luger.

Others are being nursed gently through the week to face the Irish after enduring three domestic games in eight days before the start of the inaugural Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championship.

Dallaglio said: "A lot of the players who've come back from the World Cup haven't fitted straight back inton place. A lot of them haven't even played. That shows what a lot of preparation was put into that tournament and the exhaustion that took place.

"People have been saying for a number of years that it's not an ideal situation to be playing so many games. Rugby really is a one-game-a-week sport.

"Things are being done to try and change that in the future. Once that happens, I'm sure the players and coaches will be able to go out on the field and give their absolute best. The fans will see fewer players getting injured and the best side will be out on the field."

Revolutionary blueprints have been mooted in a bid to ease the strain on Europe's top players as the northern hemisphere scramble to make up lost ground on rugby's southern hemisphere heavyweights.

Rob Andrew, who claimed last year's World Cup had taken "nine months" out of his cosmopolitan array of Newcastle stars, wants to standardise the European rugby calendar.

His plan is to see clubs complete the league season before the cream embark on their European Cup campaigns, which, in turn, will finish before the annual international season kicks-off.

Dallaglio likes the theory but he is happy to allow rugby's administrators to thrash out the game's future.

He said: "We all want the emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Rob Andrew's system proposes the periodisation of the tournaments which would allow players the opportunity to train specifically for individual targets. The league, the European Cup and international rugby.

"It seems to work very well that way and it seems to be a very sensible number of games but then my job is to worry about playing and allow the powers-that-be to administrate the game and organise the future of the sport.

"Rob Andrew has been hit a bit harder than most because the majority of his squad went off on World Cup duty with various different countries. That's the price you pay for helping sides like Scotland."

Ireland may have not been faced with the same demanding domestic preparation as their English opponents but they've also suffered injury setbacks. Uncapped Munster fly-half Ronan O'Gara and Jeremy Davidson have both pulled out.

Dallaglio, who led England into last year's Five Nations championship, was speaking at the launch of a 12-month deal with on-line bookmakers Sportingbet.com.

He will be teaming up with the Internet site over the coming year and his first task will be to weigh up the chances of the Six Nations teams.

Dallaglio said: "I don't bet on my own sport but I'm a big Chelsea fan and I follow a lot of other sports. I spend a lot of time at Stamford Bridge and, being half Italian, I'm entitled to be a Chelsea fan."

Sportingbet.com make England 6-5 favourites for the Six Nations crown but the former England skipper fears World Cup finalists France will be the ones to watch.

"I wouldn't say we're out-and-out favourites," said Dallaglio. "Every team has a lot to prove and everybody wants to beat England. I think France would be my favourites but it will be a tight tournament. All the teams are closely matched."

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