Stuart Lancaster must have felt as if he’d been repeatedly tickled around his chin with a limp stick of celery on Tuesday as the serialisation of Rob Andrew’s book ‘revealed’ what everybody already knew.
Lancaster and his soon-to-be sacked coaching team lost their collective nerve in the days leading up to their disastrous 2015 World Cup campaign and panicked into picking an untried, untested and unfancied rugby league convert in one of the most important games in English rugby history.
It was a terrible call and undermined Lancaster’s credibility in the eyes of some of his squad and the wider public.
News flash? No. A knock-out blow to Lancaster’s resurgent coaching career? Far from it. An exercise in buck passing from the man largely responsible for appointing him England head coach in the first place? Most definitely. The most interesting line in Andrew’s soon-to-be released book ‘The Game of my Life’? Not by a long chalk.
On Sunday, last season’s Pro12 champions and upwardly mobile Scarlets will face three-time European champions Toulon – heavyweights in every sense of the word – at the Stade Felix Mayol before soberly packing their bags, regardless of the result, and boarding a flight back to Wales to begin preparations to face Bath at Parc-y-Scarlets five days later.
That’s right: five days later.
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has protested at the shear folly of asking, nay demanding, professional sportsmen engage in one of the most physically demanding sports on the planet twice in five days, but it has, predictably, fallen on deaf ears. Crack on lads.
A European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) waffled something this week about the tournament schedules having been signed off by Premier Rugby, Pro14 and broadcasters and that the tournament organisers tried to avoid such scenarios. But hey, there are only so many days in a year, so many weekends in the calendar.