Clubs call for radical moves

Owen Slot finds Courage League coaches urging a change in direction
Click to follow
The Independent Online
"WHAT England are trying to do," Jack Rowell, the team manager, explained on more than one occasion in South Africa, "is something that isn't available in our club rugby." The coaches of the Courage League clubs are in widespread agreement with Rowell and believe that if England are ever to run and pass like the All Blacks, then serious changes are required.

Summer rugby is at the forefront of the thinking. "We've got to get away from the stuffy game we play," Dick Best, director of rugby at Harlequins, said. "Our weather has produced an obsession with set-piece rugby and to get away from it we need to play in the summer." Paul Turner, the Sale coach, agreed: "I don't think England are that far behind, but skill levels can only be raised in better conditions. I think 95 per cent of players would be in favour of summer rugby."

A set-piece, kicking game is a proven success in the Courage League, so a change in attitude is required. Clive Woodward, coach of London Irish, believes we should start with the refereeing. "If you run the ball from your 22, you may well be penalised for a minor technicality on your way out and then you concede a penalty and three points. If you conceded a scrum rather than a penalty for certain technicalities, that would be a start."

"We have got to give players the chance to express themselves," Rob Smith, the Wasps coach, said. "The RFU must set parameters to encourage all the clubs to play the same style. Maybe we should introduce a bonus system, say, that if you score a certain number of points in the game, 30 or 40 for instance, then you get a bonus point on the league table, win or lose".

Brian Ashton, the Bath coach, advocates a change in the laws. "Maybe we should stop the direct kick into touch from the 22, maybe we should stop penalty kicks at goal, or maybe stop kicking altogether. Then you insist on running everything," he said. "And it's heretical to say, but maybe we should play more rugby league at schools as it gives a better grounding in running, handling and contact skills."

Without such change, though, club rugby will be played in the same way, and England will not improve. "It's a lot easier to win the league by putting ball to leather and playing in the other side's half. This is our problem," Woodward said. "I don't think we'll see any difference next season. We didn't four years ago, so why now?"