England’s World Cup preparations disrupted by team doctor’s exit

The Guardian Sports 2 months ago

England’s World Cup preparations were significantly disrupted after the senior team doctor left his post shortly before the squad flew to Japan. It has emerged Phil Riley departed the Rugby Football Union earlier this month, becoming the latest member of Eddie Jones’s backroom staff to depart.

Riley had been in his role since last October, though he had been working at age-group level and with the Saxons since 2002. On Friday night a Rugby Football Union spokesman confirmed he had left because of “personal reasons”. His departure can be considered unsettling to England’s preparations given the importance of a team doctor with an international Test setup, all the more so at a major tournament.

Riley was with England on their pre-World Cup camp in Treviso in August as well as for their final warm-up match against Italy in Newcastle earlier this month but he did not travel to Japan. He is the latest example of the high turnover of England’s senior management team since Jones took over. Last summer it emerged Dean Benton, the head of sports science, and Dan Abrahams, the head analyst, were leaving their positions. Before that, Paul Gustard unexpectedly left his role as Jones’s defence coach just over a year out from the World Cup to join Harlequins. Rory Teague also quit his job as skills coach the previous May while a host of other staff members have also left under Jones’s tenure.

Riley has been replaced in Japan by Rob Young, who has previously worked for England under Jones. Young was appointed soon after Jones’s arrival, replacing Nigel Jones, who left in December 2016. Young then left his position in 2018, with Riley taking over in October that year. Riley was praised by Dan Robson, who developed blood clots while in camp with England during the Six Nations and was found to have deep vein thrombosis.

“I’ve known him nine years now and we’ve been very close for that time,” said Robson in May. “We were chatting every day about it and he’s still been in touch every week, checking up on me. Even just as a friend really which is nice. We’re definitely grateful, not just me but my whole family, are very grateful for all the staff that helped that week and to find it as quickly as we could.”

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