Johan Ackermann can relate to the challenges facing England coach Eddie Jones as he prepares to rally a squad for the 2019 Six Nations Championship.
“Eddie must flinch every time the English clubs play because he knows he’s going to get players who have played through tough Premiership games and then another tough European block,” Ackermann told The Daily Mail.
Ackermann ended a five-year term at the Lions to take over as head coach of Gloucester in 2017, and on Friday his charges took a licking from Johan van Graan’s Munster in a Heineken Cup clash at home.
That marked the fourth loss in five matches for the West Country club who are fourth in the Premiership but last in Pool 2 of the Heineken Cup and out of playoff contention. Ackermann said that the narrow margins in the Premiership make rotation a luxury that English coaches can’t afford, while the Irish clubs benefit from central contracting and the cushion of a softer Pro14 competition which includes the likes of the Cheetahs, Kings and Zebre.
“Munster had the luxury to rest players and get players fresh and obviously there are games they can afford to do that in, in their league. You can’t afford to rest players against one team in the Premiership, because you will lose,” he said.
“I think the Premiership is what makes English rugby strong, but it is quite challenging if your squad is limited because of injuries and you go into the quality of the Heineken Cup taking on top sides.”
Jones will nod knowingly. The Six Nations kicks off on 1 February and Jones will inherit Ackermann’s challenge of trying to dethrone well-managed Irish champions with a battle-fatigued squad.
“I don’t know the Irish system much apart from that the Irish Rugby Union is in control of the players and the players’ minutes,” added Ackermann. “In England there’s a big focus on the Premiership and there’s a big focus on being competitive in the Heineken Cup. You need to have your best available team every time. Getting them freshened up is going to be quite a challenge for Eddie, but that’s the system you have got here.”
— Staff Writer