England Head Coach, Clive Woodward, corrected reports in the media today regarding the release of 19 players from England fitness testing at the Pennyhill Park Hotel on Monday, September 30th.
Clive Woodward said, "I was disappointed to read the reports about the release of England players from our fitness tests this week. The information and the �off the record' comments, from one source, were misleading and inaccurate. It's important to put our actions into perspective.
"The fitness tests had been in the diary for the squad since the Elite Player Scheme was agreed a month ago. After the weekend Zurich Premiership programme, which included three games on the Sunday, it was essential that the players reported to Doctor Simon Kemp to see who was fit and available for the tests. It would have been counter- productive for all concerned to fitness test players who weren't fit. The players included those from Leicester Tigers who joined the squad directly after their game at Bristol.
"A total of 19 players were considered, through injury, not to be fit for the tests. Their participation in the sessions could have contributed to the deterioration of the knocks and injuries they had already sustained. Simon made his recommendations and I endorsed them on the basis that the players recuperation was vital and that their interests would be better served by going back to their clubs for treatment.
"If we were doing our normal training sessions all the players would have been required to stay for the full two days as usual. As a majority of the time was spent on fitness testing it was plain common sense to send players who clearly could take no part in the fitness tests and who did not have to travel far to their clubs back for treatment straight away.
"The decisions were made in the spirit of the partnership we have with the clubs and made to give the players the maximum recovery time and the opportunity to recover in time for their club games this weekend. Our next fitness tests will take place on December 16th and 17th and if we had to the same thing again we would. Injured players faced with a significant amount of travel (Newcastle Falcons, The Sharks and Leeds Tykes) all stayed with the squad for the two days and were treated by our medical team.
"At a time when everything is moving forward extremely well in all areas of professional rugby at club and country level, I find it particularly disappointing that one or two individuals should make totally inaccurate comments to the press and more importantly not put their name to their statements.
"As of today I have heard nothing other than excellent feedback from the players, clubs and the Directors of Rugby in the way we handled this situation and the way the other training sessions have gone.
"In my five years as England coach I have always held the welfare of the players as a top priority and will continue to do so."