Rowell attacks England seniors

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The Independent Online
Jack Rowell yesterday admonished his senior players for their failure to influence the way England have played their rugby this season and for leaving Will Carling, poor dab, to bear the full brunt of the captaincy.

With the Welsh ready to descend on Twickenham on Saturday, the England manager is evidently not convinced - nothing having happened to persuade him in three games this season - of Carling's unaided capacity to dictate changes when necessary.

So when the players collected at Richmond, Rowell reminded what he calls the "multi-cap brigade" of their responsibilities now that the old lieutenants, Brian Moore and Dean Richards, have followed others from the recent golden era out of the side.

"The established players have been around for a while and suddenly their friends have gone and perhaps that's demotivating," Rowell said. The manager ran through the forwards he would like to discharge this responsibility - Leonard, Johnson, Bayfield, the recalled Rodber and especially Ben Clarke as pack leader - noting that the failure of England's line-out in the last-ditch defeat by France was self-inflicted.

"If referees are going to interpret the rules as they did in Paris and in the World Cup when England played New Zealand, where you can come across and there's heavy body-contact once the ball has left the thrower's hand, you have to be more streetwise to cope with it.

"In any game Martin Bayfield plays in I expect him to come under a lot of physical pressure. We worked on a game-plan which would circumvent that but in the pressure of the game we didn't get anywhere near the variation in line-outs we had practised. It's something we have to sort out."

This is a specific example that illustrates a general point about how England - and, as Rowell notes, English rugby generally - let themselves down by rank bad decisions as well as rank bad errors. Yesterday Jean- Claude Skrela blamed England for the sterility in Paris while, as ever, his English counterpart was hoping for greater expansiveness.

These days Rowell would not dare take anything for granted. "People are underestimating Wales," he said. "Of course when you play Wales, or the other home nations, it's more than rugby; it's history. This will drive on a refreshing-looking Welsh team, though I'd like to think England will fence Wales in and impose some of their undoubted footballing ability."