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'Don't believe that for a second': England dismiss attack allegation

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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New England attack coach Martin Gleeson has dismissed claims that the team is low on confidence due to its blunt attack in this year’s Guinness Six Nations. Leaving aside the annual win over whipping boys Italy, Eddie Jones’ side has scored just two tries in 240 minutes against Scotland, Wales and Ireland. 

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It’s a meagre strike rate that has left them vulnerable to another low-table championship finish unless they can somehow come up with the goods against the odds away to the Grand Slam-chasing France on Saturday night.  

Having emerged from the Autumn Nations Series with England unbeaten on the back of scoring five tries in their matches versus Australia and South Africa following an eleven-try rout of Tonga, there was great expectation that the Gleeson-coached attack would push on in the Six Nations but that growth hasn’t materialised in terms of scoring power and results. 

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Ireland (20), France (14) and Scotland (10) have delivered more tries than the England tally of just seven and only 88 points have been scored across their four matches, including against Italy. It’s not the sort of convincing improvement that was hoped for after England scored an equal fourth-best twelve tries in the 2021 Six Nations and managed only 112 points, a return that equated to a fifth-place finish and the exit of Simor Amor as attack coach.  

The recent weeks have resulted in criticism of the effectiveness of the England attack under Gleeson, but the ex-rugby league coach insisted this has had no impact on him and that the players aren’t suffering from a lack of confidence. “I don’t read much press anyway but that comes with the territory, it doesn’t bother me one bit,” he said on Friday from Paris. 

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“No, I don’t believe that for a second, I don’t think there is a lack of confidence in the group. We have obviously not attacked as well as we would like at times in games and a few things have gone certain ways, but they are a confident group and we want to attack Saturday night. There is no lack of confidence within the group.”

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What is certain is that it has been a steep learning curve for Gleeson, who was recruited by Jones last summer as the new England attack coach after just a couple of seasons in the union game at Wasps. 

“The competition is unbelievably fierce and tight and the fan fervour generated around each game I have not experienced anything like it before,” he admitted about the Six Nations. “It was a big step-up from the autumn but it’s enjoyable. The lads have all been great and it’s been a really good experience. I have enjoyed it.

“It’s just being as efficient as you can,” he added about the pressures of coaching in the championship. “You can’t do everything in the time period you have got with the players. You have just got to build parts of our game together slowly so it’s just having that, finding out what is the biggest thing that we need at certain times and layering things on.”

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