England guilty of 'massive own goal' at Twickenham claims Woodward
Woodward targeted England’s selection policy following their narrow 16-14 victory. However the win marks their second in the tournament without securing a bonus point.
Last year, the team faced boos after a defeat to Fiji but managed to leave fans smiling this time despite a tough challenge from Wales. Efforts to enhance the Twickenham atmosphere, including a longer ‘fan walk’ and honouring new caps have been added to the match day set-up.
However, Woodward suggests focusing on gameplay over gimmicks to truly engage fans.
“I was at Twickenham as a fan on Saturday. There has been a lot of talk about getting a connection back between the team and supporters and improving the matchday experience,” Woodward wrote for the Daily Mail. “My message to the RFU would be to forget the gimmicks like light shows, DJs and bands which are designed to get the crowd going. You can’t force fun.”
The exclusion of Henry Arundell, who plays in France, due to RFU’s overseas player rule added to the controversy. Woodward and England coach Steve Borthwick have voiced concerns over this policy, suggesting changes could improve team selection and fan experience.
“There is no need to try and create it. If England can play in a way that gets fans off their seats with excitement, then the Twickenham atmosphere will take care of itself. A good start would be getting the best players on the field. The sight of Henry Arundell in the Twickenham hospitality boxes rather than on the field on Saturday was another massive own goal that is just devaluing international rugby, selection for which should be sacrosanct.”
It was agreed last March that England’s restriction on selecting players based abroad will remain in place for the next agreement overseeing the domestic game.
An ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause saw Toulouse’s Jack Willis picked during the 2023 Six Nations, but he is the lone example of its use since 2011 with dispensation only granted because of Wasps’ financial collapse in October.
Borthwick wanted the overseas policy eased in order to pick the “best players available” for his England team amid a continuing increase in signings for Top 14 sides, including the likes of Jack Nowell, Sam Simmonds, David Ribbans and Joe Marchant.
The new Professional Game Agreement comes into effect from July.
additional reporting PA