Jim Mallinder says the current English season needs a rethink
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder reflects on a punishing season by claiming nobody "in their right mind" would choose the current structure.
The staging of the World Cup on these shores has resulted in a major change in scheduling, with the Aviva Premiership delayed until October and to be played throughout the RBS 6 Nations and European competition to continue as normal.
The LV= Cup - the development competition that enables senior players to be rested - has been scrapped altogether.
Once the club campaign has been completed, England play a Test against Wales at Twickenham and then face a three-stop summer tour to Australia, while the Saxons visit South Africa.
"If it's tough for me as a coach, then it's even harder for the players. All of Northampton's World Cup players have had a week off, but that's not a massive break, its not four to six weeks," Mallinder said.
"They're back in and now it is continual until the end of the season. Then there's the Australia tour. So it's even harder for the international players.
"In hindsight, you wouldn't pick that structure. It doesn't make sense and I don't think anybody in their right mind would have picked it."
Mallinder refuses to subscribe to the view that the English game is broken, however.
The national team may have produced their worst World Cup performance by failing to reach the group stage for the first time, but Mallinder insists the building blocks are in place for England to flourish.
"Without a doubt we have the players - from our props through to our back three," Mallinder said.
"We have strength in depth, it's a question of getting the right blend together and doing what some of the other nations have done.
"We need to get our game plan and recruitment right. We must pick the right players for the right occasion.
"These things haven't been missing all the time up until now - we've seen that in some of the games England have played.
"In some Six Nations matches and in some of the internationals against southern hemisphere opposition, England have been fantastic. We just need to do that consistently.
"A lot of the comments have been negative towards the English game. I can see some of the reasons why, but then I look back at some of the club games Northampton have played in.
"The Premiership final we were involved in last year and this year's final were quality rugby. It wasn't kicking, 10-man rugby.
"It was forwards handling the ball, backs running hard, being physical and making tackles. We aren't a long way off.
"We have good players and good coaches. I think we need to be a little more positive about where we are."