Rugby's most dangerous boot camp?

Mako Vunipola is held down by England teammate Paul Hill during a judo session.

Story highlights

  • England coach under fire over training camp
  • Rugby team has growing injury list

(CNN)When it comes to leaving nothing to chance, how far would you go in pursuit of victory?

In the world of sport, where the difference between success and failure can often be measured by millimeters, the temptation to stretch the boundaries can be hugely enticing.
    For England rugby coach Eddie Jones, renowned for getting the best out of his players, gaining an edge on opponents is sacrosanct.
    That's why last week he enlisted the help of former Olympian Kate Howey to teach his squad the art of judo in a bid to help them with grappling in the tackle.
    Jamie George and Maro Itoje got to grips with judo at the training camp.
    But the Australian has come under fire after three of his players suffered serious injuries during the training camp -- including Wasps flanker Sam Jones, who broke his leg during a judo session and is expected to be sidelined for five months.
    Bath winger Anthony Watson sustained a broken jaw in a more conventional rugby incident while Exeter back Jack Nowell tore a thigh muscle, leaving domestic coaches perplexed at the methods being used and the timing of the camp so close to the start of Europe's top club competition.
    Sam Jones is set to miss most of the season with a broken leg.


    "Injuries can happen in training sessions," Saracens' director of rugby Mark McCall, whose team won the English league title and European crown last season, told reporters.
    "We do not have control over the content of England's camps, nor should we. What I would prefer to talk about is that, from my club's point of view, Premiership Rugby could have fought harder as to when these camps were situated (in the season calendar). We would like to have been involved in that discussion and to have one 10 days before the first Champions Cup games is flabbergasting."
    Anthony Watson will miss the autumn internationals after suffering a broken jaw.


    After an abysmal home 2015 World Cup where it failed to get out of the group stage, England has been transformed by Jones, who took over in November last year.
    It has won nine successive Test matches and whitewashed Australia Down Under 3-0.
    But the success has come at a cost for the 2016 Six Nations champion.
    England went to Australia in June and won all three Tests.
    Last week's camp, the second of the season, was part of a new eight-year deal struck between the clubs and the English Rugby Football Union.
    The clubs, represented by league body Premiership Rugby, will receive £25 million ($31 million) a year for allowing their England players to attend training camps throughout the season.
    But the extra camps, in October and January, have caused consternation because of their timing ahead of big domestic and European matches.
    McCall led Saracens to the domestic and English league title last season.

    'Not consulted'

    "It seems strange that the clubs were not consulted, and we have got to fight our corner in this," McCall added.
    "The directors of rugby in the Premiership should at least be asked when they think the England training days should be.
    "It was a done deal in the calendar, and when I raised an objection to it there was surprise that there should be any problem.
    "There are competing needs and Premiership Rugby should have some non-negotiables. Premiership Rugby need to be careful chasing all this money if it comes at the expense of the clubs, who need to be strong and fight their corner as the RFU will fight theirs for the international game."

    Testing period

    England faces a daunting run of fixtures over the next couple of months, starting with a home game against South Africa at Twickenham on November 12.
    It has further games against Fiji, Argentina and Australia during the Autumn International period.
    But this latest row is threatening to undermine the recent success of the national side.

    Club vs. country

    Exeter coach Rob Baxter, who was critical of the England medical team following the injury to Nowell, says more must be done to protect players.
    "We were told there was no significant injury and England didn't feel it was a big issue, just an overload issue, but when we get him back here and we scan him we find a significant tear of his quad," he told reporters.
    "It's not a one or two-centimeter tear, we're talking a nine or 10-centimeter tear.
    "For that not to get picked up is a bit annoying and now we've realized that he's going to be out for a significant period of time."
    Jack Nowell will be sidelined after injuring his quadricep.
    Baxter was also unhappy that two of his other players, Henry Slade and Ollie Devoto, were unable to take part in full training following the England camp.
    "Injuries will happen, but the amount of injuries that came out of this two-day camp are so significant that if questions weren't asked, it wouldn't just be remiss of us as Premiership coaches, it would be very remiss of England not to ask how all those injuries happened," Baxter added.
    "I don't really care if England think they have an unlimited supply of players, that's fine, but there isn't an unlimited supply of players.
    "You don't have to have many training camps where you pick up five or six significant injuries before you get through your whole playing group."
    The RFU has yet to respond to CNN's request for comment.