Eddie Jones doesn’t do substitutes or replacements, he prefers finishers instead.
After stressing players fighting for a place on the bench are just as important as those in his starting eleven, Chris Wilder understands the point England rugby union’s head coach is trying to put across.
“I have never looked at it as 11 plus three,” Wilder, the United manager, said. “I have always looked at it as 20 odd. Through experience, both playing and managing, the boys that play the eights, 10’s and 15’s (games) are vital to you. Whey they come in - and you mix the team up through injuries, suspensions or loss of form - it’s important your performance levels, and results, don’t dip.”
Jones has canvassed opinion from a variety of different disciplines since being appointed 15 months ago, with Antonio Conte and Danny Kerry, who led Great Britain’s women’s hockey team to gold at the Rio Olympics, among those invited to Bagshot. Wilder does not operate an open door policy when his team’s prepare for matches but, when it comes to maintaining team spirit and managing disappointment, is on exactly the same page as the Australian.
“If you talk to our boys, it isn’t a case of ‘them and us’. They understand the importance of a squad, a group effort,” Wilder continued. “I see other clubs and think, mentally, a lot of players and teams will be tired now, physically too. They may have injuries as well. They may have the numbers, but do they have balance in their squad?”
United, now seven points clear at the top of the League One table following last weekend’s victory over Bolton Wanderers, face another test of their promotion credentials at Rochdale on Saturday. Keith Hill’s side, who recently extended the contract of former United striker Steven Davies, drew 1-1 at Bramall Lane in August and have beaten Scunthorpe, Fleetwood Town and Southend on home soil this term.
With 12 matches of the season remaining, Wilder has refused to rule-out rotating the options at his disposal in an attempt to haul United across the line.
“Everybody needs to be ready,” he said. “Even if somebody isn’t involved at the minute, their attitude in their week influences the lads who are. When a team achieves something, people don’t name the individuals, they name the team. That tells you all you need to know.”