Leicester Tigers captain Tom Youngs believes the return of England players from an intense autumn international campaign has reflected in the Aviva Premiership club's poor performances in the last two rounds of the European Champions Cup.
Leicester Tigers, Saracens, Northampton Saints and Harlequins lost their double against Munster, Clermont, Ospreys and Ulster respectively in their European Champions Cup face-off while Wasps and Bath managed to bounce back with wins over La Rochelle and Bath respectively in Round 4.
Aviva Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs also suffered back to back defeats against Leinster making it a torrid two weeks for English clubs in the competition. With this in mind, it is no wonder why at present, the betting odds are not in favour of the Chiefs. But this may change if the team plays better and win more games in the process. Despite this, the odds may or may not change drastically because there’s more to them than winning and there are other factors that contribute to the changes. They are serious injuries, weather conditions, unusual events (disasters or accidents), line up changes, personal issues and so on. Nonetheless, Chiefs fans can remain positive because if the team shows the same intensity that they showed against the Newcastle Falcons, they can win more games.
Apart from Bath Rugby, who are top of Pool 5, the other English clubs lie in the bottom 2 of each of their respective Pools. Northampton have performed the worst from the English contingent in Pool 2, arguably the 'Pool of Death' with 0 wins from all 4 games. Clermont, Ospreys and Saracens make up the rest of that Pool and it's tough to see a way through to the knockout stages for Saracens, currently sitting in 3rd, let alone the Saints.
With 2 more games left for each club there is still time for a late surge from the Aviva Premiership clubs, but with the power of the Top 14 and Pro 14 sides to date, you wouldn't bet against a final with English representation coming from freebets.co.uk.
England coach Eddie Jones, without doubt, believes in intense training blocks with a view to field of the fittest side for the all-important 2019 World Cup and the aftereffect felt when the players made an immediate return to the clubs as compared to Ireland players, who were given the equivalent Pro 14 week off on the orders of the Joe Schmidt.
Schmidt had the luxury of directing players rest outside the international window because his players are on IRFU contracts as compared to the England ones, who are under full control of the clubs outside the Test window.
“A lot of teams have lost, and lost the double. It is very strange how every English team seems off their game a little bit,” said Youngs.
“The England boys come off a very intense camp with Eddie and they are a bit weary. I don’t know how you manage that as Premiership Rugby but that probably needs looking at.
“To come straight back from an international back playing is tough for those guys. You go from playing at a massive stadium to coming back to playing in a park. The drive is not quite there, it’s different. It takes a while to adjust back, and to adjust back to family life.
“Mentally, you freshen up a little bit and you become a little bit more hungry after a week off. Your body gets a little bit of a rest but, more than that, your mind gets a rest.
“The reality of it, as players, we’re not going to ask for a game off. I love playing for Leicester and any opportunity I will get, I’ll take it. It’s the way it is here but the game is getting more physical and the expectation is more and more.”