Home Rugby Does England Selection Favour Certain Clubs?

Does England Selection Favour Certain Clubs?

Does being at one club make you more likely to represent England than another? We take a look at the players who have been capped since the beginning of Stuart Lancaster’s time in charge and see if there are any correlations between capped players and the clubs they play at.

This writer recently wrote a piece where it was suggested Newcastle Falcons back rower Mark Wilson could benefit from a move away from the north to further his international ambitions.

But is it right to suggest that playing for a club in the Midlands or south is likely to provide you with better test rugby opportunities? We take a look at the numbers.

New Zealand v England

Stuart Lancaster Era (2012-2015)

Lancaster called up 40 new players in the four years in he was in charge, with just two of those coming from Sale Sharks or Newcastle Falcons, or 5% of newly capped players in the period. In contrast, Bath (12.5%), Northampton (15%) and Saracens (17.5%) were the best represented clubs in this period. Together, those three clubs made up 45% of the players selected for England in the period.

Of course, these were some of the most successful teams in the Premiership during that time, with the trio regularly making the top four of the league, whereas Newcastle Falcons were never above the lower half of the table. Yet Sale Sharks made it into the top six in both the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 seasons, so being a successful club does not always equate to new England caps.

Bath (5):

Kyle Eastmond (v Argentina, 2013); George Ford (v Wales, 2014); Semesa Rokoduguni (v New Zealand, 2014); Anthony Watson (v New Zealand, 2014); Sam Burgess (v France, 2015).

Exeter Chiefs (4):

Tom Johnson (v South Africa, 2012); Jack Nowell (v France, 2014); Henry Slade (v France, 2015); Luke Cowan-Dickie (v France, 2015).

Gloucester (4):

Ben Morgan (v Scotland, 2012); Freddie Burns (v Fiji, 2012); Billy Twelvetrees (v Scotland, 2013); Jonny May (v Argentina, 2013).

Harlequins (3):

Jordan Turner-Hall (v Scotland, 2012); Joe Marler (v South Africa, 2012); Joe Gray (v New Zealand, 2014).

Leicester Tigers (2):

Thomas Waldrom (v South Africa, 2012); Tom Youngs (v Fiji, 2012).

London Irish (2):

Jonathan Joseph (v South Africa, 2012); Marland Yarde (v Argentina, 2013).

Newcastle (1):

Kieran Brookes (v New Zealand 2014).

BAGSHOT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Kieran Brookes passes the ball during the England training session at Pennyhill Park on September 22, 2015 in Bagshot, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Northampton Saints (6):

Phil Dowson (v Scotland, 2012); Lee Dickson (v Scotland, 2012); Stephen Myler (v Argentina, 2013); Luther Burrell (v France, 2014); Calum Clark (v France, 2015).

Sale Sharks (1):

Henry Thomas (v Argentina, 2013).

Saracens (7):

New caps since 2012: Brad Barritt (v Scotland, 2012); Owen Farrell (v Scotland, 2012); Alex Goode (v Fiji, 2012); Mako Vunipola (v Fiji, 2012); Joel Tomkins (v Australia, 2013); George Kruis (v New Zealand, 2014); Jamie George (v France, 2015).

Wasps (3):

Rob Webber (v Italy, 2012; Joe Launchbury (v Fiji, 2012);
Billy Vunipola (v Argentina, 2013); Christian Wade (v Argentina, 2013).

Worcester Warriors (2):

Matt Kvesic (v Argentina, 2013); Chris Pennell (v New Zealand, 2014).

Now let’s turn to the new caps Eddie Jones has appointed since he took over the side in January 2016.

Australia v England

The Eddie Jones Era (2016-)

Jones has capped 12 new players in a very short space of time from a wide spread of clubs, with Sale Sharks gaining representation in the form of Tommy Taylor, who then promptly left to join Wasps. No players from Bristol, Gloucester, Newcastle or Worcester have yet earned caps under the Australian, but given the inconsistent form of all these clubs last year this might not be a great surprise.

Bath (2):

Ollie Devoto; Charlie Ewels

Harlequins (2):

Jack Clifford; Kyle Sinckler

Leicester Tigers (1):

Ellis Genge

Leinster (1):

Ben Te’o

Northampton (2):

Paul Hill; Teimana Harrison

Sale Sharks (1):

Tommy Taylor

Saracens (1):

Maro Itoje

Wasps (2):

Nathan Hughes; Elliot Daly

Overall verdict:

Any good coach will tell you that selection is an art not a science, and selecting players involves a number of factors – including team performance, performance within a team and an individual performance – but a considerable concentration of players have been capped at a small number of clubs since 2012.

Even though three players have gained England recognition from Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks in five years (with all three having since left to join other clubs), a core group of clubs have provided the bulk of England’s new caps.

Ultimately, however, playing well in a successful team is always going to benefit your cause more than struggling to impose yourself in a team that is performing inconsistently.

Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena

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