Rowell's problem is that the modern world hates anything complicated and does not know how to deal with qualifications

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The Independent Online
Sometimes I feel sorry for Jack Rowell. I try to put the feeling behind me - to tell myself that no one made him take on the job of England manager - but somehow it creeps back. Rowell's trouble is that he is unsuited to the modern age of mass communications. This is not because he is a tremendous toff: though he went to Oxford, his roots lie in the north- east. Nor is he inarticulate: he is perfectly fluent, even if he does occasionally fall into management speak, which is not surprising in view of his background in Dalgety Foods.

He is an intelligent, a sensitive and, I suspect, a shy man. That is the trouble. The modern world hates anything complicated and does not know how to deal with qualifications. His predecessor, Geoff Cooke, got out of the difficulty by making things simple, even when they were not, and by treating his interlocutors with a certain genial contempt. Rowell is not like this.

He was, however, imprudent to commit himself too soon to Phil de Glanville as England captain. De Glanville is a fine centre, but Will Carling remains even better, while Jeremy Guscott is a great centre; putting him on the wing is a convenience, nothing more. Rowell has introduced two very good running full-backs in Tim Stimpson and Nick Beal. But if either is played, and Mike Catt dropped, who is to do the goal kicking?

I feel sorry for Catt as well. He has turned out to be the Graeme Hick of English rugby: the youthful prodigy from southern Africa who would, as soon as he qualified for the English side, be a commanding influence for many years. As things have turned out, Catt will be lucky to be in the next England team. Alex King is that rare being in England, a natural outside half.

His Wasps colleague Andy Gomarsall should be kept inside him. At the beginning of the season he was praised for being prepared, as Kyran Bracken was not, to embark on the odd frolic of his own. Today he is blamed for taking too much on himself. There is no justice in the world. There is certainly no consistency among critics.

We still do not know - this is hardly Rowell's fault - whether Adedayo Adebayo, Tony Underwood or someone else entirely is the best left-wing available. I should certainly play Jonathan Callard at full-back for his kicking alone. The England back division would then be: J Callard; J Sleightholme, J Guscott, W Carling, A N Other; A King, A Gomarsall.

The backs' trouble is that when they take the ball they are all standing still. Passes often land on the floor behind a centre or wing. Les Cusworth, one of the coaches, is reported to be "working on" this problem.

Taking the ball at speed used to be something most rugby players were taught at 14 or 15. I would bet that all the present members of the England back division were taught it also. Then the fashion started for the outside- half to take the ball lying flat and standing still, the better to cross the gain line. That was the theory anyway. When England try to apply it, the consequence is a completely stationary threequarter line.

All those who were critical of the front five's performance on Saturday should remember that those same players held and at times dominated the New Zealand Barbarians for a good two-thirds of the match two weeks previously. The problem remains in the back row. When, after that match, John Hart, the New Zealand manager, ventured to say that England had the "balance" wrong in the back row, I did not understand him to be saying that the unit should consist of Lawrence Dallaglio at No 6, Tim Rodber at No 8 and Chris Sheasby at No 7. This is the way some commentators have interpreted his remarks. But I understood him to mean the back row should be Dallaglio at No 6, Rodber, Sheasby, Ben Clarke or someone else at No 8 and someone else again at No 7.

At least my native land, with Dale McIntosh (who is as Welsh as my pussy cat), Colin Charvis and an excellent reserve in Nathan Thomas, are two- thirds of the way to a good back row. It only remains for Scott Quinnell to resolve his financial differences with the authorities.

I do not know the details, although I should hesitate before appointing Mike Burton to look after my own interests. But Quinnell surely does owe something to a country which nurtured and briefly admired his talent and for which his father, Derek, was both an outstanding player and a selector. With his brother Craig at lock, and another Richmond player, Allan Bateman, who had a fine game on Sunday, retained in the centre, Wales may be worth a flutter in the Five Nations if the odds are right.

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