David Strettle: Wingers not to blame for England’s malaise

dave strettle

English wing-play has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently; first, it was far from a vintage autumn for the Englishmen patrolling the wide channels, with just one try from a winger in an England shirt – and that was a run-in from five metres (never mind the fact that it was nearly butchered). Since then, as if the criticism has manifested itself in cruel fate, injuries have struck down the majority of England’s options.

No rugby player would ever admit to taking any perverse pleasure from seeing their contemporaries, and rivals, struggle, and sure enough Saracens winger Dave Strettle is quick to jump to the defence of the England wingers’ performances this autumn.

“I think wingers will always come in for a lot of stick if you’re not scoring lots of tries,” he says. “You can be the hero or you can be the villain, but I don’t think we’ve had wingers who score lots of tries for England for a good few years.”

He raises a good point – it has been quite some time since England boasted a winger with the try-scoring record of a Bryan Habana, or more recently a Julian Savea or Ben Smith. Strettle is keen to point out, however, that the blame for this should not fall solely at the wingers’ door.

“We’re not a team that plays a game like New Zealand or Australia do,” he notes. “We’re a different team in a sense of how we get results, so it might not be a case of going out there and playing the most attractive style of rugby.”

That may not be what any England fans hoping for a more expansive game-plan were hoping to hear, but Strettle does raise a good point – without the willingness of the men inside them to put the ball through the hands and create the space, how much are those on the end of the line really at fault here?

“It’s easy to point at the wingers when there’s no tries being scored, but you’ve got to look at the team as a whole and think, ‘Are the chances being created for them?’,” he points out. “When you look at the top sides, a lot of the wingers score tries through easy run-ins, so you’ve got to look at what the rest of the team is doing.”

Strettle is an infectiously upbeat character, and even after so many setbacks in his international career – horrific injuries, a poor performance at a crucial time here and there – he remains positive when asked if he thinks there is still a future for him at the very top of the game.

“Definitely – I always seem to find that in the summer they drop me to have a look at other players, then they recall me for the Six Nations,” he says mischievously. “I believe that if you perform in the league then you’ll get your chances, and I’ve consistently done that over the last few years.”

His optimism is admirable, and with the injury list England currently have it is far from unlikely that he will feature at some point in the Six Nations. Of course everything now is geared towards the 2015 World Cup, and Strettle admits that the opportunity to represent your country at a home World Cup is something that adds an extra level of motivation to perform well.

“Everyone wants to be involved for the England team – you always want to play for your country,” he says, “but playing at home in a World Cup, what could be better than that? I think that’s on everyone’s radar. I’m not saying you need any extra impetus to want to play for your country, but it’s definitely the icing on the cake.”

Whether the prospect of regaining an England place has been a motivating factor or not, Strettle has had a superb beginning to the season for Saracens. He is already just two tries away from his tally for the whole of last season, while the club themselves have gone some way to shedding the ‘boring’ tag that has been attached to them after finishing in the bottom half of the try scoring charts for the past five seasons running. Sitting second in that same chart so far this season, Strettle is proud of the club’s renaissance as an attacking force.

“Towards the end of last year, we scored a lot of tries,” he points out, “and we’re working out what works well for the team as a whole. If you actually look at how our team plays, we know that tries are what wins you games and wins you leagues. We’ve really worked this year on being more clinical, in the sense of taking our chances in the right areas, and working on our systems, and it’s allowed us to score more tries.

“You’ve only got to look at some of the tries we’ve scored this year, some of the rugby that’s been played, and the players that have gone on from Saracens to represent their country – we can’t be doing that much wrong can we?”

If he continues to run in the tries, then Strettle may well be one of those players representing his country again before long. After suffering so with injuries in the past, there would be a cruel irony about him getting another chance thanks to the ultimate misfortune of others. But sometimes that is how sport works, and there’s no doubt that if another opportunity comes Strettle’s way, he will grasp it with both hands.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Dave Strettle was speaking to The Rugby Blog as part of a Saracens appearance for Gatorade, official partner of the Aviva Premiership. Information on Gatorade’s nutrition products, hydration tips and training videos are all available at www.Gatorade.co.uk, by following @GatoradeUK and liking facebook.com/GatoradeUK

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

52 thoughts on “David Strettle: Wingers not to blame for England’s malaise

  1. “We’re a different team in a sense of how we get results, so it might not be a case of going out there and playing the most attractive style of rugby.” – Wow, that’s a hell of a thing for an England hopeful to say…

    1. Really depressing this to hear from an England player. I just hope that starts to change because we won’t take the next step unless we do.

    2. I’m not so sure. I think this can be mis-interpreted.

      Firstly, England have a powerful pack, so any coach in the world, would utilise that, because this is their strength. To not do so, would be ridiculous.

      Secondly, our forwards – generally – are not the all-court ball players that New Zealand have, so we cannot play the same game as New Zealand.

      Lastly, and through necessity, without Tuilagi England do not have a power-puncher in the backs. This is their problem, and this means that they have to play a game with more forward dominance.

      It is a fallacy to think that the other successful nations have a more adventurous approach than England in the backs. All of the other nations have backlines built around a mixture of bulk and subtlety. They all have players who can punch holes in the wide areas, creating space for those around them.

      England don’t have this without Tuilagi. So they are obliged to use their forwards more.

      When England were (arguably) the best in the world, and everyone lauded their free flowing rugby (before the WC win), but they had Cohen and Tindall to punch the holes.

      It could be argued that they also had Robinson who had a very different approach but often ended with the same result – that is, sucking in too many defenders for the opposition to recover and defend their spaces sufficiently.

      Wade could be similar. Eastmond possibly.

      Burrell could be this puncher also, but in the end they went with Tomkins, probably rightly so based on what was seen. Hindsight of course suggest that this did not go quite so well as planned.

      There is a view on another thread that North would not have so many caps if he had chosen England. I don’t subscribe to this as I think he would have fitted perfectly. Don’t forget that we kept going with Banahan for a long time, and for all of his detractors, he did do a decent job.

      Don’t forget that International defences are very, very well drilled. It is very rare that players can break the line on simple skills, on a one v one basis. It is only when three defenders get sucked in to a ball carrier, and quick (offload or re-cycled) ball is presented that the gaps can be found and the breaks made. Just think back to the Eng/NZ game.

      All three NZ tries were the result of a big ball carrier punching the holes. Against Ireland it was the same.

      1. Whilst I agree with most of your points, you’ve explained how to play basic rugby, which I agree with as a top level simple version of how to play the game.

        In reality, Tuilagi has played in most of Englands games under SL; how many times has he punched a hole followed by one of our wingers exploiting that space created and scoring? I can’t think of many.

        The issue England have is that they play with blunt wingers. Ashton is a very good player, but he won’t create something out of nothing. Barritt was never going to unlock defences, neither was Goode – they were persisted with for far too long.

        SL is unlucky this Autumn in the he was robbed of Wade, Yarde and Tuilagi. We could easily all be sitting here now amazed by the wonderful rugby SL has go them playing because Wade had scored a wonder try – quite like if he has played!

        BUT – he created his own problems in persisting with players that had proved they weren’t up to the required level, ie. Barritt, Goode, Ashton

        1. Jacob, its basic rugby done well that appears to be the best. Of current international teams, its only Australia, who play anything other than basic rugby, and that is generally out of necessity, because their strength is their ability to recycle quickly and turnover regularly.

          My point, probably badly made (I am at work after all), was that basic rugby at least in this sense, is what England struggle with because of their personnel. They are not actually that different to Australia in the sense that they play a restricted game because the right players are not available in certain areas.

          Wade scoring a wonder try will not likely happen because of a change of team style, it will happen of individual skill. England’s wider game plan will more likely result in Wade strolling in, in acres of space.

          I make the point of Tuilagi, but of course the reality is that England need two “punchers”, as one is easily covered. It may well be that England can use Billy V wider to help with this, but it still leaves them short on punch.

          NZ (Nonu, Savea, Read)
          Wales (almost all of them apart from HPenny)
          Ireland (Kearney, Bowe – although they still rely on O’Brien)
          France struggle without Bastaraeud.
          Scotland need Visser
          SA have de Villiers and a whole load of heavyweights.
          Australia play a different game, but still have Folau, and the curly hared one.

          Having said all of this, I do think that Farrell at 10 is restrictive.

          It is not just about Tuilagi (or any one player) actually making the yardage, but about his potential to do so.

          1. I wasn’t disagreeing with you on how rugby should be played, I completely agree.

            To be fair Yarde is a bit of a lump, not in North or Saveas league, but not small either.

            If everyone was fit, I am sure the back line would fire, it is when they are not that England lack a serious game plan. Any player in the all black squad could fall dead tomorrow, and they would simply churn out another player who plays exactly the same way and knows exactly what to do. England don’t have this.

            Our best back line, with everyone fit is:
            Youngs, Farrell, Yarde, Twelvetrees, Tuilagi, Wade, Foden.

            People will shout Brown and I am a fan, but Foden is a finisher – there aren’t many of them that are English so he has to play. That back line has everything possible to get over the gain line, score tries and play the kind of rugby that we want to see.

            1. Yes, you’re right about Yarde.

              I like your back-line. Obviously I would go for Brown (but accept that there is little to choose between them).

              I like Farrell, and I like Twelvetrees. On paper they look good, i’m just not sure that its ever really “clicked”. Maybe they need more time.

              Who’d be a coach, eh?

  2. We are a different team in that Andy Farrell’s league systems are gone and we are now allowed to play heads up…

    1. James, where is that info from? I don’t think any of us saw evidence of the backs playing heads up rugby in the autumn – also I’m not so sure it’s just the system, I think the selection doesn’t help.

    2. Yeah, when a club side are better for the loss of a ‘national’ coach you have to worry about the national team.

      1. Glad you go that one chaps. Yeah, the proof is in the pudding. Sarries score tries now Farrell is gone. England just can’t score tries consistently. We’ve had a particularly impressive drought recently though

  3. I’m not sure that he’s said anything that we didn’t know! Style of play is going to keep us competitive in most matches but probably isn’t going to win the RWC. Selection is muddled because there seems to be some compromise between picking the best players and picking players who suit a certain style of rugby (in the backs) and we have ended up with neither. Injuries haven’t helped when we really need to gel some combinations. Who else would like to see 36 and Tuilagi play together? Time for SL to nail his colours to a mast as to the attacking style of play for this team. At the risk of exposing more young players, I would go for Nowell and May on the wings for the 6N. Not sure what to do in the centres. Do you have Barritt and 36 for stability with fresh faces outside. I know they are both 12s but I think they have played together before. And then what to do about FH. What a mess we are in. Too many options but not enough time or experience to go round. I think we can write off challenging for the 6N this year. Leave that to Wales and concentrate on the RWC.

    1. Totally agree- give us an attacking style and sort our backline rather than be bothered about actually winning the 6N… It feels a weird and defeatist thing to say but we will never progress unless we take a risk, ditch some of the safe options and play all the players we want to test.
      My fear is missing experienced centres and wings, Lancaster will go for the 12T/barritt partnership (though that did ok in Scotland if we remember) rather than risk chucking in a load of fresh faces (for the record id rather have Barritt at 13 and two new wings than Ashton in the squad). Personally (in light of injuries) would have this backline for France-
      Youngs, Cipriani/Ford, May, 12T, Daly, Nowell, Brown. Also wouldn’t mind seeing Burrell in at 12 if we feel we need a more physical presence than 12T. But that would have a combined caps of about 50 (all Youngs and Browns).

      Think Lancaster will go: Dickson, Farrell, May, 12T, Barritt/Burrell, Ashton, Brown.

      We need at least one more xfactor attacking back in there- whether at fly half (cips, ford) or 13 (trinder/daly), think we just need someone to keep them guessing and give space to the wings.

      Thought wed be a little more sorted by now to be honest!

  4. For 6N I would go:

    Youngs (Dickson and Farrell don’t work as a combination, need some sort of running threat from halfback to keep a fringe defence interested and create some space in the middle)
    36 (Barritt has been considered ‘undroppable’ for his defence, but our defence has still been excellent without him, we don’t need to bring him back in to sure up the defences)
    Burrell (has played enough 13 for this not to be considered out of position, also Tuilagi runs quite a lot of 12 crash ball lines from set play anyway. We need someone in the middle to get us over the gainline, there’s no point going for people a completely different style to Tuilagi in my opinion)
    Brown (but has to be used more as an attacking weapon, coming into the line, just being world class in your own half isn’t enough)

    Burns (Flood has 60 caps, if we have to recall him in 2015 because other options haven’t worked out then I don’t see it will be a problem for a guy with that much experience to slot back in, now is the last time we can try something else.)
    Eastmond for an impact sub in 23 shirt (if he’s not back showing some form then Watson or Daly)

  5. Where have all the caps gone under Lancaster …..

    Strettle – 7 Caps
    Alex Goode – 13 Caps
    Chris Ashton – 19 Caps
    Brown (on the wing) – 10 Caps
    Barritt – 16 Caps

    So for the back 3 players alone that’s 49 caps worth of experience largely flushed down the toilet.

    That we are now worrying about the loss of Wade and Yarde (with 4 caps, 3 against second string opposition, between them) is just crazy when you look at where the caps have actually gone. The current injury issues are the symptom, the decisions to keep capping guys not performing is the cause.

  6. I think the same thing could be said for Farrell’s style of play when he plays for England. He is being stifled by how the coaches want the team to play. He’s not the most creative player, but has better handling and passing skills than we see him use in an England shirt.

    It’s the way we’ve played for years, no matter who’s in the team. I can’t see it changing unless a SH coach is brought in who really shakes things up.

  7. For the 6N I would go with a back line of Youngs, Farrell, Benjamin, 36, Burrell, Nowell, Brown. With Youngs, Farrell, 36 and Brown there should really be enough experience there to help the other guys through.

    1. Seeing a few people mentioning Benjamin in relation to England – you can’t have been watching the same matches as me this season! He’s been away from the game for so long that he’s looked very, very rusty. As good a player as he undoubtedly is, he needs significantly more game time before he can be talked about with regards to England, to my mind.

      1. But Jamie, didn’t you just put him in your team of the week?

        However completely agree- been really disappointed with Benjamin this season, has been awful! Really excited when Leicester signed him as hadn’t seen much of him before- thought he might be that world-class finisher Leicester have lacked since A. Tuilagi left. It was always going to be hard coming back from that long an injury, but at the moment he kind of reminds me of early Varndell. Quick? Yes. Any rugby intelligence at all? No.

      2. Well I thought about who would be best on the left wing, and did think about putting Strettle in there. He’s the leading try scorer in the Premiership, so we know he’s on form. We know Lancaster likes him being an old Leeds boy. Then I thought about other options:
        May to me is a great finisher and has plenty of gas, but I just see him as another Varndell. His defence is questionable, and apart from chasing good chips from Burns, or easy run ins from interceptions I haven’t seen him do anything to think he could cut it at international level.
        Jamie Elliott could be an option, but doesn’t really get that much game time at Saints (mainly now when North is injured). He is similar to Wade in his ability, but maybe not so pacey.
        The reason I picked Benjamin is because I think if he keeps playing for Tigers he will improve. He’s a big guy, an effective ball carrier and has plenty of pace. If he stays fit and finds his form I think he could be the answer. Lancaster played him in the Saxons before, so he knows what he’s capable of. At the moment outside of Yarde, Strettle is probably the best option. He has the experience, and the ability if given the ball in the right areas. His defence has improved at Sarries, and he is on form.

  8. Blub


    It’s because there’s no will, therefore no skill, in the England camp.

    I’s down to Lancaster (& his predecessors) & his ex Leicester & ex rugby league coaching team’s lack will. They’re fear driven. You know, ‘high risk’ rugger. Isn’t heard of in ANZ rugby. That’s real diff.

    And it’s not about just punching holes; eg. Nonu’s offload @ Twick was about drawing 2 players to him.

    And Read’s tries & offload to Savia, again @ Twick, weren’t all about punching holes. That’s not to say a team & midfield shouldn’t have bosh merchants, but they needs a bit more than that… & Tuilangi, Barritt, Tompkins (didn’t pass once v NZ) or even 12trees aren’t comfortable in running straight, or in towards a tackler, or out between the oppo centres & then straighting just before releasing the pill to the 3/4s.

    Also where was Tuilangi v Oz, SA & Wales last yr… & Italy for that matter? Wasn’t injured than was he? Or is my memory…? His lucky bounces & intercepts seem to have dried up.

    Additionally, there’s no rule to say fwds can’t run & offload/pass the pill too. Needs the will 1st though, then pracise, pracise,pracise… & that’s the problem for me.

    IMO, England should have gone for Smokin’ Joe S. Early days yet, but is it a coincidence that the other H. Nations have Sth for their coaches?

    Having said that, Gatland’s record seems to mainly hinge on his rep Wasps & the Lions last win as his Wales record, whilst good in parts, is patchy in others.

    1. Jamie as well as the LIKE button I’ve been asking for, can we also have an IDIOT button inserted for moments like this.

      Don P; I find it incredible that you have called Blub wrong when his principles are rather similar.

      When Blub talks about people punching holes, what he has also said is that then needs to be exploited. If you think that is not how NZ play, then you are sorely mistaken. As he he also pointed out; exploiting it can come in a quick recycle, or the offloads to pipe on about.

      Rugby is a very simple game and NZ are an example of that. Your questioning on Tuilagi is bazaar as Carter (someone who is quite good at this rugby lark, and is from the Southern Hemisphere which is apparently a pre-requisite for understanding rugby), has said hhis toughest opponent was him when asked about the Lions tour. If you watch more of his rugby you’ll notice he has an excellent offload.

      Also, you point out that the other NH nations have gone for Southern Hemisphere coaches; but where has that got them? None of the other nations have made more progress than England under SL. Only Wales could be argued to be ahead of England, and they are simply further down the line in their development.

    2. If the player with the ball is capable of punching holes ie. Nonu or Read, then they will draw two tacklers opening up a gap. So Don P you are wrong wrong wrong!

      However I do agree to a certain extent on the lack of skill, as a result of lack of practice rather than the players being incapable of doing it.

    3. Don P, I would respond, but it looks as if Jacob and Staggy have done so perfectly well.

      However, from the inference that New Zealand play “high risk rugger”, I must say that you are mistaken.

      They play high skilled rugby (arguably the highest skilled), but they play also highly structured rugby. The two combined may give the impression that they are “high risk” but they really aren’t.

      They kick the ball in open play more than any other International team. They do this in order to de-structure the defence, and as soon as they see a “chink” in the defence, they exploit it with direct running (i’ll avoid using the word “punch” I think), well practised support lines, excellent decision making, highly skilled passing under pressure and immense trust in the rest of the team.

  9. I’m getting the feeling that rwc 2015 is going to be like rwc 1999. To me we are in a similar position. I think we have the core of a strong team i.e Corbs Hartley, Wood, B.Youngs, Tuilagi and so on. This is similar to the team of 1999 where we had a selection of good players in hill and greenwood etc but lacked the spark that Cohen and robinson brought, much like the England team of today. I think that England probably need another rwc cycle to be truly considered challengers. Just so the players that are going to give us hat spark Wdae and Eastmond etc can gain experience and be up to 35 caps or similar. This is much like the team of 2003 where we had quality and most had bags of experience in the 6n and in the previous rwc

    1. It’s a nice thought to cling on to. Don’t think we should take too much comfort from the parallel though.

      Woodward is a mad scientist, conducting loads of experiments to find out what works and what doesn’t. Most of his experiments failed, but he continuously learned and adapted (and it’s why he should never have taken the ‘one off’ Lions role).

      Lancaster has played his one card (fixing discipline and culture) but we’ve not seen much beyond that.

      1. I was thinking more of the fact that actually we should have a settled and experienced backline by then, rather than the inexperienced experimental one we’re going to have for this RWC.

  10. Strettle the winger who butchered unknown numbers of tries in Arg? Defending his team mate? What a surprise.

    Ashton had 44 carries in the AIs. How many defenders beaten? 1.

    Yarde had 13 carries and beat 4.

    Wingers at the end of the line taking the final pass in space and scoring is wonderful, but very very rarely happens at international level, there’s usually at least 1 guy left to beat. Ashton doesn’t beat defenders.

    Even Tomkins beat 1 defender with fewer carries.

    England aren’t playing a great backs game, but I want my wingers capable of more than just running in overlaps. In fact with Englands backline, it’s essential that our wings are capable of more than that!

    1. Think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Ashton is great at reading a game, picking a line and getting on the end of something that puts him through a gap (his premiership strike rate over a decent period of time shows he’s not a flash in the pan), but he can’t make something from nothing on his own.

      So whilst Strettle is partially correct (the wingers aren’t entirely to blame), repeatedly selecting a winger that can’t beat people one-on-one with footwork, doesn’t have the power to go through people and relies on others to create opportunities and then having centres go 80 mins without passing a ball once is just a recipe for failure.

  11. Blub

    My pt about ‘high risk’ (i.e. to run & pass the ball) is that the term is NOT used in the SH. They’re comfortable in running it, if approp. Surely this is evidenced by their scoring more tries? ‘High risk’ is a term I hear in the media often. It frustrates me. I guess I inferred that from yr comments that they were more of the same.

    Of course England have a big pack, but they need more than that, as I’ve prev stated. And this lack of ‘all-court ball players that NZ’ have is surely down to Lancs’ lack of will & insight in his not coaching this. I mean it ain’t rocket science. Look at what succeeds for others & strive to/do it better. S Jones of the S Times states in RW mag that coaching isn’t so important (in fairness I’ve yet to read his article in full), but for me this is lunacy. It’s imperative. Of course players are needed to implement the tactics, skills etc, but the foundation must come from coaches.

    The same goes for the England midfield. You (& others) talk of hole punchers like Tuilangi, but he too needs coaching in distribution &/or kicking skills to make him a better player. This again is down to Lancs. I mean when Nonu 1st started he exasperated me in that he seemed better at falling over or knocking on in attack than anything else – well, almost. But he’s been coached or, in his case, ‘manufactured’ into a better player. He’s not a natural like Carter or C Smith or Jane. He can ‘punch holes’, but doesn’t usually burst thru these days. Rather he off loads etc. Surely this should be done with Tui… or get someone in who can be a better all rounder.

    I therefore find I can’t agree with; ‘It is a fallacy to think that the other successful nations have a more adventurous approach than England in the backs’. They simply do. They create & score tries.

    1. Eh? How would the lack of players’ skills be down to Lancaster? He only gets the players for a month in the autumn, and 6 weeks in the spring- most of which is spent trying to organise unfamiliar players into a coherent team. Surely its down to their club coaches who have them all year to help develop their skill sets? If anything at all to do with the national squad, wouldnt it be Mike Catt at fault- the ‘Skills’ coach?

    2. Also its worth noting that Ma’a Nonu is 31 and Tuilagi is 22. So he’s had 9 extra years to develop these skills that, as your rightly say, he was lacking early on- not sure they should be on the same level right now! Give Tuilagi a couple of years and i think he’ll be there…

    3. Don P?
      “My pt about ‘high risk’ (i.e. to run & pass the ball) is that the term is NOT used in the SH.”

      I couldn’t comment on what terms are used in other countries to be honest, but surely running and passing the ball, is not considered “high risk” by anyone.

      “lack of ‘all-court ball players that NZ’ have is surely down to Lancs’ lack of will & insight in his not coaching this.” – Not at all. Henry explains the “bleeding obvious”, so won’t repeat that.

      1. Just to add my 2 cents – I believe NZ kicked more this autumn series than any other team.

        They are more pragmatic than any other team out there – including the Boks and England.

        What they don’t do, on the whole, is kick stupidly or at the wrong time

  12. Jacob

    Be as personal as you like. I was particularly impressed BTW with your ability to mention the word ‘IDIOT’ in caps, using a baseball bat in case I missed it eh? Ho hum.

    But ‘punching holes’ is just that, ‘punching holes’; like J De Villiers v the ABs @ Ellis.

    An attacking player drawing 2 players to him prior to offoading is another skill altogether. It requires the ability to run @ the outside defending player & likely also (but not always), almost imperceptably, turing into the inside defender & thus timing the offload to a team mate just before the 2 defenders engage in the (double) tackle, e.g. like Nonu v Engaland.

    You say Carter said Tui is the ‘toughest’ oppo, but not that he was the most ‘skillful’. There’s a bit of a diff you know. And perhaps you’ve been watching Tui with U Jack bins on. Comparing his offloading to the aforementioned Nonu, or esp C Smith, is making comparisons between chalk & cheese seem close.

    Regds SH coaches in the UK, well they’ve hardly started yet. And I never said they were nec better BTW, but doesn’t it make you wonder why they’re in place in 3 outta 4?

    And you talk of the ‘Eejit’ button?

    In yr case perhaps being from the SH ‘is apparently a pre-requisite for understanding rugby’. And stating that ‘rugby is a simple game’ Indeed! (&to an NZer!).

    M Crimbo.

    1. You cannot compare the skills of Nonu and Smith to Tuilagi given the comparison in age and experience.

      You can compare a young Nonu to Tuilagi, And I would say he’s slightly ahead of the Nonu curve,

    2. Apologies on the Idiot comment, there was really no need for me to drop to that level. But you putting “WRONG, WRONG, WRONG”, the way you did got me rather annoyed, completely disrespectful to someones views.

      Moving on.

      I don’t really understand you point, Tuilagi doesn’t offload like Nonu? No he doesn’t. Age 22, could Nonu do what Tuilagi does now? Probably not. I think it is a slight myth that Tuilagi doesn’t offload, he does to very good effect rather often. Not to the level some of the NZ counterparts show – but still.

      I completely agree with you that NZ have the highest skill set, BUT it isn’t high risk rugby. They play extremely basic rugby but with the highest level of skill and execution.

      Also, blaming SL for this is nonsensical for the reasons others have already pointed out for me.

      What I would say is that there is a cultural difference between the way kids in England and NZ grow up. In NZ young boys and rugby players always have a rugby ball in their hands, passing the ball around, throwing offloads and developing skills without even being at training. That doesn’t happen in England as it is not a core sport the way the football is.

      I was in NZ in 2011 for the world cup, and was lucky enough to be in the Key in Auckland harbour during the NZvsAus semi final, and at half time a full on game of touch rugby broke out. Not just someone throwing the ball around, 20+ rugby fans actually playing a game of rugby at the side of a crowd. It was an incredible thing to be involved in.

      Fundamentally, we need to stop pointing fingers at the England players and simply ask why those skills haven’t been developed. We work with what we have – and I think England are doing ok.

  13. Henry

    Well the buck stops @ the top H.

    You have a pt, tho, in that players ought to have fundamental skills when they arrive @ England’s camp. And IMO some players do perform better at their clubs than for England.

    But for me it’s down to 2 things.

    1 e.g. Quins & prev Wasps, played an all round ‘skilled’ game, (as oppopsed to Leicester or Saracens, who seem more R1 orientated), so the mind set of the coaches fixes the tone (& tactics) as to whether there’s the will to skill or not & ‘run’ the ball (altho not nec exclusively).

    2 Some players are ‘naturals’, dare I say, like Danny Cip, or going back to guys like Richard Sharpe or Bev Risman. But most have to be coached to e.g. run straight, or when to pass (accurately) & to whom (i.e. where is the most effective support likely to be? Inside or outside?), or to offload instead of automtically bashing into the nearest oppo (esp the fwds?). Or should they kick 1st & when? These are about decision making skills & the ‘naturals’ tend to know what to do when. Others.. don’t.

    But the will has to come from the coach & I don’t see this coming from Lancaster. He instead talks of combos in midfield being ‘knitted together’, when, for me, he’s just shuffling the pack. He’s not instilling better skills, physical & mental, into his squad. And that’s an issue methinks.

  14. Henry II

    I forgot to mention Tui v Nonu.

    I’m not so sure that the former has the nous/maturity; e.g. punching out his team mate (altho he poss could have been awarded an OBE, afterall as it was Ashton??), jumping in the harbour etc. Might be a bit dim?

    But time will tell. He’s got 2 yrs maybe.

  15. Blub

    You don’t watch enuff ‘Sky’ then.

    And why e.g. didn’t Tomkins pass the ball once according to SCW?

    Have to agree to differ I guees, but then that’s unsurprising. You have a diff mindset up here.

  16. Pablito

    2 cents added at least!

    I’ve heard this said before, e.g. by Shaun Edwards, that NZ kick more than (or as much as) other teams.

    As I’ve not had the inclination, or doubtless the ability to do, I’ve never counted the no. of times that they do kick the ball per match, so I’ll have to take yr & SE’s word for it.

    But to bear out yr comments, I agree that ‘They are more pragmatic than any other team out there – including the Boks and England’ & ‘What they don’t do, on the whole, is kick stupidly or at the wrong time’.

    For me it’s when they choose to kick & why; i.e. to turn over the kick or get the oppo to punt it back to them or out, ideally in their (oppo’s) territory, thus setting up attacking possibilities. That’s why esp Savea, a tall lump, chases kicks so hard.

    Perhaps this is 1 of the reasons they score more tries – which Edwards could also ahve mentioned.

    For me tho, I dunno why some other teams don’t do the same.

  17. Matt

    Dunno about Ashton. Started with a bang, but, boy he must be regretting all that show boating now. Seems to be getting more desparate to impress, but, like Cueto before him, the tries have dried up.

    On the other hand, I agree about Strettle, I’ve always liked him. Seemed fearless & sharpe to me when at Quins, but fell out of favout with England, Maybe due to injury time out.

    Also agree that wingers aren’t entirely to blame. Their primary function is to score tries, so they’ve gotta have the pill as early as poss & in space. Otherwise it’s a matter of shuffling the deck chairs on that ship the hit the ice block.

    So yr comment ‘…repeatedly selecting a winger that can’t beat people one-on-one with footwork, doesn’t have the power to go through people and relies on others to create opportunities and then having centres go 80 mins without passing a ball once is just a recipe for failure’ makes a lotta sense to me.

    Prehaps Lancs should read yr blog… even if others, like Henry VIII, think it’s just down to the clubs to produce the ‘skills’ in a player… & then it’s up to him.

  18. Pablito

    You say; ‘You cannot compare the skills of Nonu and Smith to Tuilagi given the comparison in age and experience’ &

    … ‘You can compare a young Nonu to Tuilagi, And I would say he’s slightly ahead of the Nonu curve’.

    Well up to a point, but on the other hand, IMO, Dan Carter was as mature as hhe was ever going to be at a v early stage.

  19. Jacob

    That’s alright.

    My comments were’nt intended as offensive (interestingly to another), altho I’ve been accused, on occasion, of wearing my heart on my sleeve. I sometimes get frustrated with what I ‘see’ in comments seeming to support a trend in NH rugger which somewhat baffles me. I’ll endeavour to count to 10 & re-read a comment before perhaps ‘jumping the gun’ in future. No promises mind. Ha, ha.

    As you also say, ‘Moving on’…

    Regds Tuilagi’s (or Barritt, or esp Tompkins) not ‘offload(ing) like Nonu’, it’s because he’s been the incumbent centre he copped it. For me, it’s a malaise in the English backline (lack of passing ability, ball skills) & it’s something Stuart Barnes confronted Lancs with on The Rugby Club recently. SL relied that he was ‘knitting together combos…’ etc, but this didn’t address the issue of England’s inability in creating (tries) in their midfield.

    You say; ‘Also, blaming SL for this is nonsensical for the reasons others have already pointed out for me’, but it’s a fundamental issue for England & it’s SL’s job to sort it. If not, potentialy, he’s a dead man walking.

    There is a cultural difference in England and NZ rugby, but it has to/have changed with pro rugger. I mean England has more £, players, ‘best comp, H Cup’ than any other country.

    Player skills should start at clubs, as H said, but I don’t really see it, except, as aforementioned, at Quins & before at Wasps. So it is/has been there.

    For me it takes a mindset change, hence my comments on SH coaches.

    I saw yr comments to; ‘Fundamentally, we need to stop pointing fingers at the England players and simply ask why those skills haven’t been developed. We work with what we have – and I think England are doing ok’, however when I swa the Wales game, for me Farrell closed teh game from the opening kick to heaven. Shus have done more for me.

    But taht my opioion… I could be wrong.


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