England have rid fear and selfishness from squad claims coach Mike Ford

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The Independent Online

Defence coach Mike Ford has revealed England are only on the Grand Slam trail because they eradicated a culture of fear and selfishness from the squad.

England are unbeaten after three RBS 6 Nations championship games for the first time since 2003 and can take another giant step towards the clean sweep with victory over Scotland on Sunday.



Just over a year ago, Martin Johnson's management team reviewed England's dismal autumn campaign of 2009 and concluded something dramatic had to change.



England had stuttered to a 16-9 victory over Argentina and lost to both Australia and New Zealand, matches Ford now concedes they never had any chance of winning.



Johnson and his coaches were demanding England stick a pre-prescribed game-plan. They did not trust the players and so were unwilling to allow them any kind of decision-making control.



This not only eroded confidence, particularly with results going against them, but it also created an environment where the players lived in fear of being dropped.



"After the autumn of 2009 the coaches decided the mindset and environment we created in the camp had to change. We had to have an attacking mindset," Ford said.



"At the time we needed to score 20 points against a Six Nations team to win. Against the southern hemisphere teams we needed to score 25 or 27 and we were nowhere near that.



"We played New Zealand that autumn and lost 19-6. They only scored one try but we were never going to win that game in a month of Sundays because we weren't scoring enough points.



"We encouraged the players to go at the opposition and not fear they will be dropped if they drop the ball or have a bad pass.



"It took players a bit of time to trust that we wouldn't hang players out to dry.



"It has been a two-way thing. The players have probably come here in the past and just looked after themselves thinking 'England are not playing well so what do I need to do to keep in for next week? I am going to be selfish and make sure my performance is all right'.



"But in rugby you need a team not 15 individuals playing well.



"We have set up five more meetings with player input and empowered the players a lot more whereas before we (as management) were probably 'tell, tell, tell'."



Despite the change in attitude, it was not until the final game of last year's Six Nations, against France in Paris, that England began to play with any confidence or attacking ambition.



England had just drawn 15-15 with Scotland at Murrayfield and Johnson made a number of changes for that game, most notably the decision to replace Jonny Wilkinson with Toby Flood at fly-half.



Wilkinson acknowledges Johnson made the right move in axing him because England have been a better team with Flood at the helm.



"The best evidence you can have is looking at it results-wise and flow-wise," Wilkinson said.



"The relationship Floody has created and managed to put in place with the other guys - the way they work together and the way they link - wasn't quite there when I was playing.



"It was unfair for me to play the whole of that Six Nations without Floody, the way he was going, at least finishing it off and showing what he can do. He did that and now he is where he is."



Johnson's men head into Sunday's Calcutta Cup showdown as 1-14 favourites, while Scotland are winless this year and without a Twickenham victory since 1983.



Ford said: "Scotland will be desperate. Having worked with Andy Robinson I understand him as a coach and they will be hurting. We need to be more desperate than them," Ford said.



"I have been to Murrayfield twice with England and not won there. The passion they have shown has edged us - but this is a different time now, a different situation."



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