These exciting times for English rugby and I’m looking forward to the RBS 6 Nations hugely, writes the new England coach.
And what a start we’ve been handed. Who wouldn’t look forward to coaching a team to take on Scotland at Murrayfield? It doesn’t get much harder than that. We have a tough draw this year as we have to travel to all the blues – Scotland, France and Italy.
England-Scotland is the oldest International but our pool game in this season’s World Cup gives us recent history as well. They won’t forget how we only won that game in the final few minutes. They’ll be licking their lips at the thought of having England in town but what a place for us to put a marker down.
I haven’t looked beyond the Six Nations. All I can focus on now is the things I can control. If we perform well in the Six Nations then everything else will follow. I know one thing – the whole of rugby will be looking to see how we respond to our World Cup disappointment.
I was an England player in 1999 when the side last got knocked out at the quarter-final stage. And four years on from that we were champions. There will, of course, be new players in the squad and some will be young, but just because a guy is in his early 30s it doesn’t mean he won’t get picked. I know I was in the prime of my playing career when I was in my early 30s.
We will select the side on form and we’ll already be missing a few players, including Steve Thompson and Jonny Willkinson, because of retirements. We also have a number of young players in the current group, some of them on 20 or 30 caps.
In terms of young talent there’s a huge number of players coming through. You only have to look at Harlequins to see that, or the Gloucester backs.
Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and I see ourselves as the England coaching team rather than any sort of interim group. We have to see it that way. We have to believe that if we’re successful we can keep the jobs full-time. And I certainly believe we can be successful with this group of players.
Even before this time I was involved in more than coaching the scrum with England, but I do accept this is a big step up for me to be forwards coach.
The first notable decision made was cancelling this month’s training camp in Portugal. They have great facilities over there but Stuart thought it important to stay in our own country during this crucial time, so that we’re accessible. It was also useful to change things as we’ve gone there for a number of years now.
I hope to keep my links with the Aviva Premiership clubs. I think it’s vital for England’s coaching team to have a strong bond with our clubs. I did find it difficult with some at first because they thought I’d go back and tell Leicester (my former club) all their secrets.
But I want to explain to those clubs that I want to learn from them as well and I’ve learnt a lot from the great coaches in the Premiership. I hope I give something to them too. It isn’t a case of me coming into their clubs and telling them how it should be.
To be a successful international coach you need to show humility and have an eagerness to learn. As an England coaching team we need to be transparent.
This article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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