Jonathan Davies: The biggest blow is the departure of the great Dallaglio

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The Independent Online

Coaches of the other Six Nations teams watching the upheaval in the England camp last week would have taken more heart from the retirement of Lawrence Dallaglio than they would have from the departure of Sir Clive Woodward.

Coaches of the other Six Nations teams watching the upheaval in the England camp last week would have taken more heart from the retirement of Lawrence Dallaglio than they would have from the departure of Sir Clive Woodward.

No offence to the former England head coach but, in the short term, the fact that they will have a new back-room rival to contend with means much less than being relieved at not having such a commanding No 8 in opposition to them.

England will still be a squad worth worrying about but they have lost a mighty cog from their machine, and it is bound to have an effect. Losing Martin Johnson after the World Cup was a big blow because he was such an inspiring leader. But they had the comfort of having a deep pool of top second-row forwards ready to compete for his position. That's what also made it easier to lose a stalwart like Jason Leonard - a queue of excellent props able to accept the burden.

But Dallaglio leaves more than one massive gap. They were lucky to have found someone who could so quickly aspire to Johnson's leadership qualities, but it was that plus his presence at No 8 that combined to make him so special to their cause. They just don't possess a ready-made replacement. It's one of the few positions where there is little strength in depth.

His Wasps team-mate Joe Worsley has been mentioned as as a possibility, as has the towering Chris Jones of Sale. Both of them put together might do the job, but it is going to take a while for them to fill his boots.

Dallaglio is a huge loss not just because he is such a great ball-carrier but because he is a great presence on the park. He is the sort of player who spreads confidence around the team. He has charisma and the ability to get on with everyone. Apart from being a great bloke he is a tremendous character, and to many was the face of English rugby.

England are not blessed with many candidates to take over the captaincy. Richard Hill would have serious claims, but Jonny Wilkinson seems favourite. He is not known for liking the limelight but he has done everything else, so perhaps he will relish the challenge. He doesn't have the obvious leadership qualities of a Johnson or Dallaglio, but good skippers don't always come in the same package.

The absence of Dallaglio from the next England team will be compensated for by Wilkinson's return, but I believe the player they've missed most is Jason Robinson. They haven't done so well this year but they've still managed to win plenty of ball. What they have lacked is the cutting edge than turns pressure into points. Robinson provides that more than anyone.

The gap left by the head coach is an altogether different problem. In his very impressive reign, Woodward created his own management structure, and no one can argue that it didn't work brilliantly. But there isn't anyone else remotely resembling him. I don't think he was a great coach but he was a brilliant manager, and was able to create a structure that allowed a great team to develop.

Maybe England can continue to live off the framework he built. By promoting Andy Robinson, it should be possible to maintain the status quo. I'm not sure the England camp need any more changes at this stage.

There have been rumblings that Woodward had lost it, that since the World Cup he has struggled to maintain the squad's equilibrium; and considering the players he lost, this is not surprising. No doubt many will now emerge and express their misgivings about him, but his success is beyond question. As long as he doesn't attempt to coach, he has much to offer any sport.

He wouldn't be the first to swop managerial codes. Chris Anderson is about to attempt a crossover from rugby league to union by taking on Gwent Dragons.

Woodward is going one step further. If you were looking for a new field to conquer, football represents the toughest of them all, but whatever else he suffers from, it won't be lack of confidence.

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