As we wait with bated breath for the team to face Ukraine, perhaps a few comments may be made. The last time Sweden fielded an A/B-team rather than a B/C one was against Luxembourg a year ago. Not the greatest opposition, but the first time we´d won in 20 games.
Since then, when Kanogo has been interviewed, he has expressed himself cryptically about bringing on younger players and building a team for the future. This building process has resulted in Sweden being relegated in Europe and dropping som 30 places in the world rankings.
I ask myself who has given this mandate to Kanogo to develop a team for the future. I have never heard anyone in a position of responsibiity stating that this is the case or noting that the mandate has been singularly unsuccessful. If I were in charge of Swedish rugby I would have been doing everything to ensure that Sweden stayed at the Trophy-level or that we did everything possible to get back up to that level. In actual fact we left the Trophy-level like lambs, losing every game, and at the Conference 1 level last year we finished fourth out of five, winning the one game against Luxemburg. And now in the 2017-2018 Conference season we have another, narrow, win against the team which will almost certainly be relegated to Conference 2 next Summer.
Turning to the actual team selected last week it is interesting to look at the process of bringing on younger players. The pack had for instance three starters over 30 and one just under. It was also obvious that at least three of the forwards were nowhere nearly fit enough to play international sport, all of them with protruding bellies. It makes a mockery of Swedish rugby to suggest that these players should be in the elite representing their country. Did you see any comparable stomachs in the Pingvin – Exiles finals? No, neither did I.
I have already suggested it is unbelievable that the chairman of a club, who is also sole selector and trainer of the national team should pick six of his own players as starters in the Swedish team. The club of course finished a poor fourth in Allsvenskan which only had five teams. Only two other players from the Swedish top division were regarded as being good enough to make the best XV.
In any other rugby country I am convinced that there would be an outcry if people abused their positions in this way, but in Sweden everyone seems delighted that we managed to scrape home against a very poor team.
Has anything positive come out of the policy of ”bringing on younger players”?. In my subjective opinion there are very few good young players who have come forward in the last couple of years, which is worrying for the continuation of the sport. Having said that, the picture is not all black. Three teenagers involved in the Hungary game are some of the most promising newcomers in recent years. I refer to Alex Melander, Rickard Nunstedt och Theo Karlsson although I think two of them played out of position. Let´s hope the U18 and U20 efforts can find a few more.