Juniors with their sights on the stars

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The Independent Online
It requires lateral thinking to envisage a club in the South-West First Division - effectively the regionally based sixth division of the Courage Championship - being intrinsic to the fortunes of England.

But this is how, in part at any rate, Dave Egerton sees his role as coach of Bridgwater and Albion and, as Egerton played seven times in the England back row during a distinguished career with Bath, he should know.

Not that the Bridgwaters of this world can plug the gap Jack Rowell, the England manager (as well as Egerton's former coach at Bath), has identified in the development of international players. But what Egerton, and thousands like him, can do is help.

"I have a number of goals as a coach at this level," he said. "First and foremost is that the club has a successful rugby team with an emphasis on player-development on and off the field. But at the same time if I see someone with potential I would regard it as a duty to see that he goes as far as he can.

"You are going to get one every three or four years. There are some at Bridgwater who might disagree with me, but, once I have had a season or two to mould that player's skills, I would advise him to make the step up - all the way to Bath if I thought he was good enough."

All England players have to start somewhere. In his autobiography Brian Moore gives a colourful account of his early years in Halifax with Old Crossleyans - this season in North Two, one rung lower than Bridgwater - and it is no exaggeration to say they did much to make him what he is today.

Egerton, who played in the same pack as Moore in all his internationals, became Bridgwater's coach at the start of this season, and in bringing Bath methods to the Somerset club he anticipates that ultimately they ought to develop an increasing number of would-be Moores.

"It would be counter-productive to be so desperate to hang on to players that you made it awkward for them," he said. "It's a balancing act and I hope people wouldn't be so small-minded as to object to that.

"It's a symbiotic relationship between what's good for the club and what's good for the player.

"We wouldn't attract players if they did not see it as a springboard for higher honours and if they have that potential it is up to us, and all the clubs around the country, to show them how to do it and where to go."

Even if this and whatever else he does at Bridgwater are liable to connect with England only obliquely, Egerton accepts that he and his ilk share responsibility for the present dearth.

"There is a shortage of players coming through," he said, "and we have to be honest and say it must be the coaches' fault, because where else do they learn their rugby?"