May: England coaches must be given time

12:30 PM GMT

It seems a long time ago now that England made their disappointing exit from the Rugby World Cup. Everyone had an opinion on what the next steps should be, and the RFU and Ian Ritchie made their decision. Eddie Jones will lead England’s finest into the next World Cup in 2019 in Japan but more importantly into Murrayfield against Scotland on Feb. 6 — I can’t wait to see how it all pans out.

The choices that Jones has made in putting together his coaching team will shape the way that England are set up to perform. I love the fact that we have relatively young coaches coming in to guide the side, they will add a huge amount to the squad and the team moving forward. I thought some of the coaches that lost their jobs still had something to offer but that is in the past, we need to look to the future.

Paul Gustard, Steve Borthwick and Ian Peel are coaches that are going to have good careers in the game and they have a fantastic opportunity to leave a big mark on the English game.

I played with and against Borthwick over a number of years after we first played for England Schools in 1997. Back then, I could see the intensity and focus that he gave to his game, especially the lineout and it was an example to be followed. Preparation wasn’t necessarily an area many school boys paid massive attention to back then but his was the most detailed I had ever seen and that is clearly why Jones has seen him as a valued piece of the England management jigsaw; he has the same approach to his coaching methods.

‘Borthers’ has a complete understanding of the game having played more than 390 times at club level and added 57 England caps to his playing CV. This experience will be invaluable for the likes of Joe Launchbury, who many think could be in with a shout of being named captain for the upcoming Six Nations. Young, developing players will be set an example by their coach which is the best way to create ‘go to’ habits. It will give them the confidence in themselves through developing the best practices from one of the best and also allow them to learn from his vast knowledge.

Borthwick worked with Jones during the Rugby World Cup. AFP PHOTO / DAMIEN MEYER

Borthwick’s experience clearly made a big difference to Japan during his time with the Cherry Blossoms and hopefully he can have the same impact with England. Look at the tussle that took place for his services — Bristol didn’t want to lose him in such an important season. He was seen as an important part of their push for promotion to the Aviva Premiership but ultimately can a club hold a coach back if they are destined for the top?

Peel is the most recent addition to the England coaching team. His role as scrum coach during the Six Nations is probably more of a guidance role bearing in mind that he is to work with Saracens on a longer term basis. That said, England’s set piece has been under a huge amount of scrutiny lately and what has been a safe haven for the team has been part of the game which opposition teams have tried to exploit.

If Peel does a good job then he might well be asked to combine his role with the Premiership side with his international duties but that remains to be seen. I was a teammate of Ian’s in Newcastle and he was one of the best props I played with. He had an ability to understand the game which perhaps not many other props have. He had hands and could read what was in front of him.

That fits with Eddie Jones. He likes his coaches to fit their part of the game into the overall masterpiece. The coaches don’t have their one role and look after their own house, it all fits together to form the one big picture. I was lucky enough to see the new England scrum coach work with the under-20s at the Junior World Championship in Italy and his coaching intensity, combined with his innovative style and knowledge will breathe fresh air into a set piece which needs revitalising.

Gustard, though, could arguably be the most influential recruit. Jones worked with him at Saracens during his last stint in the UK and since then the Premiership champions’ defence coach has developed into one of the best in the business. His attention to detail is incredible and he has fine-tuned the defensive wall set by the north London club so that it performs week in week out at a high level.

Gustard has been an integral part of Saracens’ recent success. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Every try scored against Saracens hurts Gustard personally — he cares a huge amount and wants to learn from the reasons why each score was conceded, trying to better the team’s defence and him as a coach. That takes a massive amount of time, effort and focus on the smallest of details. He doesn’t shy away from the hard work, he gets it done. Some coaches don’t do that and cut corners but Gustard isn’t about that as a person.

Building the ‘Wolf Pack’ has taken a long time but the club is now reaping the benefit of Gustard’s work. He will demand high standards from his players but he would never ask anything of them that he wouldn’t do himself, which is what makes the players want to work for him. As a coach he isn’t necessarily required to put in as much physical work as the players but he can regularly be found at the front of the group during pre-season when he joins in some of the sessions. That creates respect and nothing more can be given to a coach from a player than respect for what he stands for.

It also reflects the energy he has as a coach. He isn’t an overweight ex-player passing on the dark arts, ‘Guzzy’ is at the heart of everything. I like that. It might seem superficial but having a fit coach full of energy is the prerequisite in the modern day. Over a few years, I’ve heard about the energy he puts into his coaching. He isn’t a ‘sapper’ but rather understands what a coach full of life and energy can offer the players he is working with.

If Gustard gains the respect from the players he will work with at international level as he has at Saracens then the English game can sit back and relax in the knowledge they have someone of enormous capability in charge of one of the toughest part of the game.

I love the look of the newly assembled team. They will add hugely to the group of players Jones will choose on Wednesday. There won’t be much time for them to make a difference before the Six Nations but over time, as the new systems embed themselves, these three could be as important as some of the top players.

I only hope that we support this group more than we did the last. It’s easy to think things will happen instantly but we need to allow time for mistakes to be made and players and coaches alike to learn from the new environment they are working in. It won’t be easy but if any three coaches have the energy and drive to do it then these three do.

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May: England coaches must be given time – RUGBY

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