Woodward critical of England progress
July 2, 2012
Sir Clive Woodward has hit out at the inability of England to beat the sourthern hemisphere countries © Getty Images
World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward has said that English rugby fans should not be fooled by talk of development following the losing tour to South Africa.
England returned from South Africa with a 2-0 loss to the Springboks, with the third Test drawn 14-14. It means England have a record of four wins, one draw and three losses since Stuart Lancaster took over as head coach at the start of the Six Nations. On the tour Lancaster handed debuts to Jamie Joseph, Alex Goode, Joe Marler and Tom Johnson, but Woodward claims that talk of development masks the inability of England to win south of the equator.
"Our development processes are not working," Woodward wrote in The Sunday Times. "After the Third Test, Stuart Lancaster said his team had three under-21s at 10, 12 and 13, in (Owen) Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph. Great, but England have no monopoly on young players. The other teams have more youngsters who are apparently better prepared -- look at what George North, Alex Cuthbert and Sam Warburton do for Wales. England hail quantity but, at the top level, quality is what counts."
Under Woodward England went on a run of 12 wins over the southern hemisphere trio of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa that culminated in victory in the 2003 World Cup final against Australia in Sydney. Along the way Woodward's side beat New Zealand, Australia and South Africa on consecutive weekends at Twickenham in 2002, then in 2003 beat New Zealand in Wellington followed by a win over Australia in Melbourne a week later.
Now though the last time England beat South Africa was in November 2006 and they have not beaten New Zealand since the win in Wellington. Even though they have beaten Australia in the two most recent encounters, Woodward believes that the team would struggle to win consecutive matches against the SANZAR nations.
"Our vaunted academies and the Twickenham system are not bringing through players collectively who are good enough to beat Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on consecutive weekends (which is what we must do this autumn and in the World Cup)," Woodward said. "For a dose of realism, just look at the stats: since the 2007 World Cup final, England have played the Tri-Nations giants 16 times, the fixtures evenly split between Twickenham and the southern hemisphere. They have managed just two wins and a draw."
During his time in charge of England Woodward was not afraid to give debuts to promising young players. He gave Jonny Wilkinson his debut at 18 and was quick to bring in the likes of Mike Tindall, Steve Thompson and Ben Cohen when they showed promise early in their careers. It was a policy that paid dividends for Woodward when all four played major roles in helping England win the 2003 World Cup. Now though Woodward doesn't think there as many good enough young players coming through as the Rugby Football Union likes to claim.
"Are there grounds for hope from the junior ranks? The England Under-20 team have just finished a disappointing seventh in the junior World Cup," he said. "Despite the evidence, we are always being told great young players are coming through. This helps deflect the blame for the poor results of the present and provides optimism for the future. We lap it up."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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