The Breakdown | Absent Lions give England’s young hopefuls their Premiership chance
With tourists resting, youngsters have opportunities to grab, but old hands such as Cipriani and Vunipola can make a mark
If rugby union is increasingly a young person’s game there have been some noteworthy exceptions to the rule of late. Morne Steyn and Quade Cooper have a combined age of 70, but both veteran fly-halves have kicked decisive late penalties in the dying stages of Test matches within the past six weeks. Their returns partly speak to the lack of younger talent in South Africa and Australia respectively, but equally Steyn and Cooper were able to provide their sides with an assuredness that only comes with age.
Which brings us on to the opening weeks of the Premiership season, which gets under way on Friday only 83 days after the previous one came to an end. For varying reasons there are a limited number of star signings to whet the appetite. Clearly clubs continue to cut their cloth amid the ongoing financial impact of the pandemic while this is also the first season for which the salary cap is reduced. Add in the simple fact that, without the threat of relegation, there is less urgency to spend on recruitment and it becomes obvious why no clubs have broken the bank for overseas stars. Indeed, to briefly revert to the original point, perhaps the most eagerly awaited debuts will be made by Danny Cipriani, aged 33, and Mike Brown (36).