Mind games to blame for puzzling snub of league’s top scorer

The international wilderness is the most frustrating limbo in sport. If a player is ostracised by their club, they can either work their way back into the team or look for a transfer away from their problems. At national level, though, it is entirely different.

Once a player has locked in their choice of team they are forever pledged to that country following their first senior cap. Their first appearance is usually followed by another and another, with the player vindicated in their choice.

It can also be followed by a player losing their place due to a poor game for club or country, but this is down to the players difficulties due to a lose in form and it is their responsibility to rejuvenate themselves.

Very rarely is a player that did nothing wrong in their first game and has shown consistent form at club level ignored.

While it is rare, it is the fate that has continued to befall Wasps’ Christian Wade.

With the Lions tour of New Zealand seeing many of the best players taken away from the home nations, the 2017 summer tours are seen as a chance to blood some fresh new talent with some of the more regular test team players.

Many saw this as Wade’s chance to finally reclaim his place in the side then, but Jones has seen otherwise and once again left him out of the team.

The Aviva Premiership’s top scorer has been in fine form. Wade has crossed the white wash a total of 17 times this campaign, eclipsing the 11 scores of James Short, his closest competitor.

Throughout the season the Wasps’ winger has been in outstanding form. He has made 36 clean breaks and beaten 79 defenders while his overall record for the club is quite impressive too:

Christian Wade all time stats for Wasps. Image Source: Rugby Stat Bunker
Christian Wade all time stats for Wasps.
Image Source: Rugby Stat Bunker

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Statistically, he is outstanding. 83 tries in 129 games is fantastic, while the fact he has started 126 of a possible 129 games shows he is also consistent in the amount of game-time he plays, too.

His electric pace and ability to go past defenders is unbelievable and he can score, as his stats attest to. However, many have placed Wade’s size as a problem on the international stage.

At just five foot eight inches tall, he is hardly imposing height wise. It would prove a real test for Wade if he were to see a few enforcers from the forwards drift towards the wing to test out how strong he really is in the tackle.

The predicament for Jones is while Wade obviously poses a real threat when he has the ball and can move into space, how will he fare up against the size and strength of players like George North on the wing?

The game seems to have moved away from the type of player Wade is, with international rugby no longer a place in which either speed or power alone is good enough.

Forwards have displayed this change in what is expected of a single position on the pitch with the unfit but burly players a thing of the past. Instead, forwards must be incredibly fit, able to put their body on the line in attack and defence and have the ability to move the ball instead of just taking it into contact.

For Wade though, his lack of massively imposing size is something he cannot do much about. He will not get taller and if he choses to put on an extra 10 kilos then he is likely to lose his most attractive qualities; his acceleration and raw speed.

Following his squad announcement Jones said:

There is no reason why other players can’t come back into it but they’ve got to be desperate to improve. I always saw 2017 as an opportunity to build the depth of our squad. This is the ideal opportunity to bring young guys through. The talent there is just so exciting – good young athletes, desperate to play for England, willing to die for their club, obsessed by being great. If players aren’t like that they won’t play for England.

Eddie Jones

It is clear that Jones is willing to test out new talent then as he seeks to push his players beyond their current ability levels. It means that there is a chance of a call up for the winger but he must push himself further.

This is why Jones is vindicated in his decision to to exclude Wade. England’s coach could be playing mind games with Wade, hoping that his continued exclusion will see the winger push himself to be better with every rejection fuelling his drive to be better.

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The above was an outstanding performance from the winger against Worcester last season. His haul of six tries displayed his pace and power along with his intelligence and opportunism which would enhance England’s attacking options out wide.

What no try compilation shows is the defensive lapses of the player scoring the tries though. Wade’s size and defensive work rate remains an issue for Jones.

England clearly deem Wade as not of the required ability to make the current squad, one which is a weaker group of players due to their lack of international experience. The winger needs to improve to make the team and he is doing that, scoring 12 tries last season and 17 this campaign. If he can continue this arc then it will surely not be long for the nearly man to get his call up.