How The Hell Did He Get A Cap? No 1: Barrie-Jon Mather
Barrie-Jon Mather, the big centre signed by Sale from Castleford RL in 1998 with the assistance of RFU funding, was wrong from the start. While Clive Woodward made no secret of trying to get his mitts on RL players in the late 1990s, he tended to go for exceptional talents like Jason Robinson, who he got, and Kris Radlinksi who he didn't. Mather wasn't anywhere near that level of class.
He was an international, of course, but certainly not one for the ages like the two already mentioned or Andy Farrell (who was a borderline RU disaster for reasons other than talent). He was big, he was fit and he had decent pace - but this description could be applied to any number of players from either code, so it remains a mystery to this day as to what the England coach saw in the plank from Castleford. Perhaps it was that after Radlinki's refusal, Woodward, like a drunken man having had his sexual requests rebuffed by a stunner moved slowly down the quality ladder until he found a lesser specimen who would give him the rugby equivalent of a doner kebab and a top-half grope.
Given this, Mather would have to play out of his 6'4" skin for Sale if he was to get an England cap, surely? Well, no actually.
His RU career continued on its curve of mediocrity for the first twelve months with very few stand out performances (if any) for his club, yet still England beckoned in 1999, due more to Woodward's pig-headedness than anything the player had shown in his first season. Mather left Sale quietly in 2000 at the end of his contract to return to Cas, injury and then obscurity.
Of course, the RFU could have avoided all of this from the off.
I don't have many rules in my life, but one of them is to be wary of people who don't spell a traditional name properly. If a person has two such names and not only spells them stupidly but hyphenates them also, then they should be extended no trust at all.
If the RFU had followed such simple and flawless logic then Barrie-Jon Mather would never have moved to Sale and would have been prevented from gaining an England cap in 1999. Unfortunately, they are not clever like me.