Polar opposites – England Rugby Vs England Football


This week former England football legend gave an interview following based on England’s early failure at the Football World Cup. Stuart’s interview which can be heard here highlights where he thinks the English FA have been failing the game. In the interview he highlights just how many of the players going to the World Cup lack international tournament experience. He says performance at major tournaments isn’t determined  by how well the tournament goes, but actually you can judge our perceived performance on the work done in the two years previously.

He highlights that far to often players are withdrawn by the clubs or by the players themselves rather than playing in the youth tournaments. He believes that players would benefit from being in those youth tournaments as they gain valuable experience in those environments that would equip them better for the Senior side.

It is a fantastic interview and it highlights the massive gulf in approach taken by football and rugby.

I compare that with the RFU’s approach which has seen England win the last two Junior World Cups. From the 2013 World Cup winning side Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Ollie Devoto, Sam Hill, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson and Henry Slade have all now been selected in some capacity for the senior training squad and several of them are going to be in contention for the Senior squad’s World Cup in 2015.

But looking deeper into that squad the following players have broken through and are now pushing for starting places at their clubs; Jack Clifford, Tom Collins and Tom Stephenson.

To clarify that was last year’s squad, go one year further back and we have the following:

Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)*
Nick Auterac (Saracens)
Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins)
George Merrick (Harlequins)
Ben Nutley (Northampton Saints)
Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)*
Billy Vunipola (London Wasps)
Will Skuse (Bath Rugby)
Jack Clifford (Harlequins)


Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby)*
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
George Ford (Leicester Tigers)*
Ryan Mills (Gloucester Rugby)*
Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs)
Elliot Daly (London Wasps)*
Jamie Elliott (Northampton Saints)*
Marland Yarde (London Irish)*
Charlie Walker (Harlequins)
Will Addison (Sale Sharks)
Ben Ransom (Saracens)*
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)

Most of these players are now household names with Yarde, Nowell, Ford and Vunipola now regulars in the England starting line up.

And just a final look at the year before (2010- 2011). The follwoing are in the England set up as full internationals, although Watson is a full time 7s player not 15s.

Joe Marler (Harlequins)**
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby)*
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Christian Wade (London Wasps)
Marcus Watson (London Irish)

If ever there was an argument to continue the RFU’s success it is in the continuation in ensuring they are getting as many players ready for that top level experience. Interestingly Harlequins also have one of the most progressive player development platforms which has seen them produce the following in recent years by farming out the young players to the leagues below, based on where they think they will learn best and get them the right level of experience so when they are asked to step up to the first team they are ready.

In recent years the Quins farm has produced the following players:

Lindsay Hague, Marfo, Marler, Matthews, Sinkler, Smith, Trayfoot, Clifford, Merrick and Walker.

It just goes to show that investment in training youth only goes so far if you aren’t providing them with those critically important development experiences that enable them to be better equipped to deal with situations on the field. It is on the field of play that the players will learn faster than on the training pitch, because putting in to practice is almost worth twice that of what happens on the practice field, which often happens in controlled circumstances.


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