Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, reports on a shocking double dose of bad luck for a young back rower and says World Rugby have made a rick of their own in having a crack at Glenn Newman.
Alex Rieder is a 26-year-old back row player with Wasps who has done the hard yards – and now he has got to do a few more. And we are not talking about ball-carrying or hitting rucks, he has not done too much of that season and he probably won’t get a chance to do too much more.
Kendal-born Rieder has played in the Championship with Rotherham, signed for Wasps in 2015 and has put in a fair shift for his current club without being the centre of attention. He is not one of the Wasps boy band back line – he is a grafter and now he has to graft some more and it is crying shame it won’t be on the pitch.
He is the sort of player who makes a club tick especially when the big dogs are away on Six Nations duty. And with James Haskell and Nathan Hughes away with England, Rieder had a chance to really crack on and get a run of games under his belt after five months sweating buckets for nothing.
On Sunday at the Ricoh Arena – for Wasps’ 13-7 win over Exeter – he was on the bench for the first time in five months after being sidelined with a shoulder injury he suffered against Harlequins on 17 September.
Wasps rate him so highly they gave him a new contract even when he was crocked and doing five months hard labour.
That’s five months of rehab when players tell us they often feel like a spare part at training as they are in the gym, or with the physios, because they will not be involved at the weekend. And for players the weekends are everything.
Joe Marler told us as much last week after he had spent three weeks along with Haskell being beasted by Eddie Jones and England’s S&C staff whilst serving the pair were serving suspensions. Being injured is worse because most of the time it is not the player’s fault.
Marler, in an entertaining meeting with the press in Kensington last week, articulated the frustration of playing and not training.
Rieder was busting a gut to get on against the Premiership champions in Coventry and got his chance 50 minutes into the game. Five months of graft to get back, why wouldn’t you be busting a gut? It was show time.
But six minutes later he suffered a sickening knee injury and 10 minutes later he was being stretchered off the pitch and taken to hospital and yet another long stretch of recovery.
His 2017-18 season has amounted to two full games, against Sale and Worcester, 10 minutes against Quins and six against Exeter and about a million hours being bored out of his mind rehabbing.
He must wonder why he bothered.
One of the photographers came into the press room and showed us a snap he had taken of the incident. We are no doctors but the image of his leg bent out of shape looked like it was a season-ending job.
There were other injuries of varying severity to Wasps players. Danny Cipriani, the promising back row Jack Willis and the wing Marcus Watson all went off with Achilles, shoulder and ankle injuries respectively. The club are waiting for news on them but it seems more clear-cut for Rieder.
Dai Young’s chat with the hacks after the game was like a script read-through for an episode of Casualty.
The Wasps’ gaffer told us: “Alex’s looked quite nasty and he has gone for a scan. It has put a real dampener on the day for us because he is a real character amongst the squad. He has worked his socks off after a nasty injury. You can’t help but feel for him.”
Rieder is not the first, and he won’t be the last, player to get injured virtually the minute he has returned from some orthopaedic calamity or another.
Further up the food chain than Rieder, Manu Tuilagi has seen the inside of more hospitals than a locum medic with a massive overdraft and Elliot Daly was due back in training last week but had another set-back.
Tom Rees was another Wasps back rower who is now spending even more time in the wards as a medic than he did as a player.
The brilliant flanker would have been the answer to England’s perennial No.7 conundrum and at 33, as he is now, would probably be captain of his country with about 100 caps under his belt and on his way to Japan next year for one last hurrah.
Then the rugby gods intervened.
A knee injury did for his playing career in the end and he was forced to quit, at the age of 27 in 2012, with just 15 Test appearances to his name.
Once, in 2010, when he had returned from a serious shoulder injury and played the house down on his return for Wasps at Northampton, he explained the frustrations of the injured player.
He was out on his feet at Franklin’s Gardens and had to sit down to be quizzed by the hack pack whilst he was still in full kit and blowing like a racehorse after it had run in the National.
“I wondered whether I’d bother playing again,” he told us way back then. “When you’re injured, you spend more time in the gym, not less, and when you’re struggling to do 10 press-ups when the rest of the blokes are throwing weights all over the place, it’s not great for the ego. I don’t dislike training, but it’s a means to an end: ultimately, I’m in this to play rugby, not train for it.”
It is a bit more strenuous than being on the driving range and not setting foot on a golf course for sure or bowling a few gentle off-spinners in the nets.
That is how Rieder must be feeling now and we can only wish him the best as he, along with countless other players, hits the treadmill and tries to bottle up his envy of the blokes who are doing the business on the weekend. He will get the verdict later this week and we hope it is a good one.
He wouldn’t be human if this latest blow was not a massive kick in the guts – and it is not cushioned by a huge salary either.
Injuries happen in rugby and most clubs have as much as a quarter of their squad crocked at any one time.
As we have written before it is a big boy’s game and big boys don’t cry. But Sunday’s events made you weep for Rieder.
Just when you thought the saga of the ‘Try That Never Was’ was over it reared its ugly head again early last week when World Rugby threw Television Match Official Glenn Newman under the bus.
Newman, you will recall, was the bloke in the TMO’s box who ruled that Gareth Anscombe had not scored for Wales in their 12-6 defeat to England at Twickenham in the second round of Six Nations matches.
Eddie Jones told us after the game that it was all done and dusted – but it wasn’t. World Rugby instead issued a pointless statement telling us that Newman had dropped a clanger and it should have been a try. Why?
They have form of course. They chucked Craig Joubert under the nearest No.73 Routemaster when they said the whistler should not have given Australia a last-minute penalty which handed the Wallabies a win over Scotland in their World Cup quarter-final in 2015.
On Tuesday we went to see Jones who told us he was on good behaviour and was watching what he said.
So about five minutes later he started shooting from the hip, in typical Fast Eddie fashion, and World Rugby were the targets.
Jones said: “They (World Rugby) have done it before. We’ve got to trust the referees, respect their integrity. When I say respect the referee, that’s the television process as well, and then you leave it at that, and then you get on with it. One side’s won, one side’s lost.
“If you haven’t got the rub of the green then you know you probably get it in the next couple of games.
“In Japan they have a great saying: at full-time there’s no side. That’s one of traditions of rugby, you get on with it, you respect that decision.”
That is Jones on what he called a ‘good behaviour bond’. You should see him when he is really let off the leash and has got something to get off his chest
But he raised a serious point. The game is gone, there is not going to be a replay and, whether you think it was a try or not, nothing is going to change. And they undermined one of their own officials.
World Rugby dropped a clanger of their own here as they did with Joubert. What they should have done is have word with Newman if they really thought he was wrong, in private, and not thrown him to the wolves. For the millionth time…..who would be a referee?