Yesterday Stuart Lancaster named an initial 35-man England squad for the opening Six Nations match against France in Paris on the first weekend in February.
It is deliberately large because of firstly, the number of currently injured players who may (or may not) be fit in time to be in serious contention for the match day 23; and secondly, the number of players who will undoubtedly become injured between yesterday and the moment at which it becomes necessary for Lancaster to name his ‘reduced’ final squad.
Inevitably, this being the media game, acres of newsprint has been penned overnight by rugby correspondents, responding to perhaps both the opportunity to raise rugby’s profile in the sports pages and/or an editor’s request. The response to the squad announcement has ranged from ‘about right’, to mild criticism of the decision to ditch senior fly half Toby Flood, to speculation – and that’s all it can be – about who is nailed-on to make the starting XV.
However, we all know that such word production is just ‘going through the motions’ at this point in the run-up to the start of the Six Nations campaign.
As your newly-appointed National Rust rugby correspondent, I am not even going to comment upon the squad just announced.
Frankly, at this stage, my views are worth no more than those of the man on the Clapham omnibus, or indeed any group of rugby fans nursing pints in the far corner of any pub in the United Kingdom.
What is important is what happens over the next two to three weeks. Which of the crocks regain fitness (also, which don’t) and which of the currently fully-fit get injured. Plus, of course, which players – whether callow first-time newbies, or well-established and in form – impress in training camp.
In the meantime, the journos will be spoon-fed limited officially sanctioned tit-bits and interview opportunities and dutifully reproduce the results for their readers.
You will have to forgive me for choosing to keep my powder dry.