x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

England's management plea for patience

The England manager Martin Johnson and the director of elite rugby Rob Andrew call for patience after a dismal month.

Martin Johnson, like his young squad, is still learning to get to grips with the challenges of Test match rugby.
Martin Johnson, like his young squad, is still learning to get to grips with the challenges of Test match rugby.

LONDON // England have fallen off the pace in the world game although their new wave of players will come through given time to develop, according to the director of elite rugby Rob Andrew and the manager Martin Johnson. The pair held a post-mortem at Twickenham after thumpings by Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and agreed the last month was a necessary tough first hurdle on a long journey.

"We said when we appointed Martin that it was a three-year project," Andrew said. "That's why we changed the (Rugby Football Union) RFU contract structure and gave him a fixed contract up to December 2011 because we know what is required. There is a lot of work to do. "It has only been four weeks. It's a process you have to start. We haven't got an old guard to go back to like we did in the last World Cup.

"If you compare the caps from the starting teams on Saturday we had 275 and New Zealand had 647. No side in the world has lost the experience we have since the 2007 World Cup." England suffered their biggest defeat in a match at Twickenham when the Springboks won 42-6, their worst there against the All Blacks with Saturday's 32-6 reverse and their second-worst home loss to Australia when they went down 28-14.

It was a harsh welcome to the world of coaching for Johnson, who began his stint with an encouraging win over the Pacific Islanders. "When you are starting out there is going to be inconsistency but I didn't expect to lose by the margins we did," Andrew added. "It was probably the toughest group of games and the players are learning how to deal with the disappointment, the pressure and all the things that come with Test rugby.

"Remember that a lot of the squad are between 21 and 24 and we are very realistic about where we are and what we need to do. "The coaches have taken some blame for certain things. We are well aware of what our problems are but there are a lot of young guys who have gone away from those games who now know where they need to improve." Andrew said the academy system, set up in 2001, was beginning to bear fruit, with the likes of Mathew Tait, Tom Rees, Tom Croft, Danny Care and Danny Cipriani now coming through to the senior squad.

With England's under-20 team completing a Six Nations grand slam and reaching the World Cup final last season there is promise for the future. But Andrew accepted there was some truth in the former Australia coach Eddie Jones's criticism that England had "experienced players and inexperienced players and nothing in between". "A lot of what Eddie says is right. "We need the Premiership to help us with player development. It's particularly difficult in the front five where the Premiership is full of international forwards. We need those young players to develop in a stronger A-league."

Andrew said that he was looking at the possibility of converting the Anglo-Welsh Cup into an under-25 competition while Johnson lamented the changing nature of the game. "When I was playing we got our stripes in the pack at 20 but often now they are not getting a game until they are 23 or 24." *Reuters