“The panel has come up with an incredibly impressive shortlist, which reflects the strength of Aviva Premiership Rugby,” said the Premiership Rugby chief executive, Mark McCafferty. “It’s great to see players who have emerged from our academies in what is undoubtedly a world-class list of players. It will be a tough job picking the winner, as clearly all six would be a worthy Aviva Premiership Rugby player of the season.”
That ‘world-class list of players’ is comprised of:
- Brad Barritt [Daracens and England]
- Mike Brown [Harlequins and England]
- Chris Robshaw [Harlequins and England]
- Julian Salvi [Leicester]
- James Scaysbrook [Exeter]
- Nick Wood [Gloucester]
This is not a dig at the players nominated, all of whom are fine players who have had good seasons in the Premiership and deserve to be in contention for the award. The people compiling the short list have done a sterling job and rewarded the players who have prospered in the league, ignoring some big-name internationals or players who did their best work in European competition.
No, it’s a dig at the ludicrous Mark McCafferty, a man whose aim in life seems to be to promote the Premiership entirely at the expense of his own credibility.
Between them, all those ‘world class’ players have 17 test caps. That’s 12 fewer that Tom Court has earned to date. On his own. Brown and Robshaw have six each, and Barritt has five – and they’re not kids, either: Barritt and Robshaw are 25 years old, Brown 26. The other three are uncapped, which doesn’t preclude them from being good players – even excellent players – but should make it difficult to label them ‘world class’ with a straight face, seeing as they’ve never once competed in a test match, never mind dominated the world of international rugby.
For the record, it’d be between Exeter’s consistently good James Scaysbrook and English captain Chris Robshaw in The Mole’s book, with Scaysbrook edging it. Maybe he ‘stole the round’ with his excellent display at the weekend against Northampton, but any time The Mole has seen the Chiefs in action, he’s been a star player. He’s tough, has a great work-rate, breaks tackles, makes good decisions in possession and has a footballing brain that somewhat belies the shaved head and tribal tattoos. He often takes the ball at first receiver if Mieres has been sucked into contact, and he can read a defense and distribute passes as well as some out-halves in the league. Even though he’s getting on in years, Stuart Lancaster should take him to South Africa and give him a shot in the No7 jersey: he deserves the chance, and maybe he’ll prove McCafferty right.