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England must follow Premiership's lead – Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

The Premiership might have its issues off the field but on the pitch it’s showing England and Steve Borthwick that the future should be very bright.

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A total of 38 tries were scored across the five league games at the weekend as teams showed the sort of intent and ambition that has been lacking on the international front for the past few years, and it’s been a similar story throughout the opening five rounds.

England overachieved in terms of the end result at the World Cup and a lack of style or limited game plan was accepted because of the circumstances, and the fact a few wins were strung together, but it won’t be in a few months’ time and the Premiership is showing the way forward again.

Eddie Jones used to make out that domestic form counted for very little when it came to international selection but even he admitted the error of his ways towards the end of his tenure and Borthwick should forge as close a link as he can with coaches around the league.

England don’t have the luxury of the sort of synergy between club and international rugby that New Zealand, and to some extent the likes of Ireland, have but there should be more parallels between how they play with more cooperation and an evolution in coaching.

Borthwick England <a href=
Rugby World Cup semi-final” width=”1024″ height=”576″ /> (Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)

The introduction of more young talent should be a breath of fresh air too and it’s no coincidence that teams like Harlequins, Bath, Exeter and Northampton near the top of the league at the moment are awash with bright young prospects.

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Of course, the World Cup has skewed things a bit. Saracens and potentially Leicester will come on strong as the season progresses and games will tighten up with increased pressure and worse weather but it’s just been great to see the energy and attacking threat on display.

Bath are a case in point. Clearly, Finn Russell has been a huge catalyst but he’s surrounded by young English talent thriving. Ollie Lawrence has to be a shoo-in for the Six Nations and Max Ojomoh won’t be far away either.

Champagne rugby is in Harlequins’ DNA but they’ve married that up with a bit more steel and dog this season, the addition of Joe Launchbury being an inspired one, and Louis Lynagh and Lennox Anyanwu have both looked good in recent weeks.

It didn’t work out for Nick Evans on the England coaching staff because he was only there on a short-term basis and wasn’t given the freedom to put his stamp on things but you can’t help thinking now would be the perfect time for him to be involved rather than earlier this year.

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And, Northampton may be defensively fragile but they’ve been tearing up trees in attack for a while now with Tommy Freeman and Fraser Dingwall to the fore alongside now England regular Alex Mitchell and a clutch of other English youngsters.

Add to all of that the fact that a certain Henry Arundell scored a hat-trick on his debut for Racing 92 against Toulon in the Top 14 and there is a wealth of attacking talent to choose from. Just get the ball to them.

Henry Arundell
Henry Arundell (Photo David Ramos – Getty Images)

It’ll be fascinating to see how big a turnover of players there will be when Borthwick names his squad for the 2024 Six Nations. Obviously he isn’t going to ditch all of the old guard but he has to start thinking beyond the next game for the first time now.

Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes and Jonny May have all retired and we surely aren’t going to see the likes of Danny Care and Dan Cole in there but we should see a bit more of an upheaval than just a handful of necessary replacements.

In truth though, it’s more of a mindset issue when it comes to follow the lead of some of the Premiership clubs and start playing a more expansive game with players able to express themselves with a bit more freedom.

We see Owen Farrell and other vastly experienced players offloading the ball a lot more and playing with a smile on their face for their clubs and then either being asked to play a different way or not being able to translate that form onto the international stage.

Borthwick is naturally risk averse as a coach and will know he has to evolve and expand his horizons and he also has to create an environment where players feel as comfortable as they do when they’re playing week in, week out in the Premiership.

England player ratings
England’s fly-half and captain Owen Farrell (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

The pressure ramps up in a white shirt at Twickenham but that shouldn’t mean players have to start playing within themselves and we need to see evidence that the shackles have been taken off now that the World Cup is in the rearview mirror.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes with regard to contracts and agreements but, aside from that, England just need a more joined-up approach where we can see players empowered to play in a similar manner for their national team as they do for their club.

The pressure to get results is always going to be there and can potentially lead to a reticence to open up but the time to make change is now at the start of a new four-year cycle and with England starting their 2024 Six Nations campaign with the easier of their fixtures across the first three rounds.

Of course, you can get carried away watching thrillers like the West Country derby or teams like Quins and Saints throwing the ball around but there is a genuine frustration around the clubs that the sort of rugby being played in the Premiership isn’t being transferred onto the international stage.

It’s not all going to click instantly but evolution is needed and the time is now. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating when the Six Nations kicks off in just 12 weeks’ time but for now we should enjoy rugby being played the right way across the English top flight.

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Comments

20 Comments
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Thomas 214 days ago

Think I completely agree with goodey, I think we’ve been too centralised about trying to fit in all the big names into one team that don’t actually work that well together and not actually creating a game plan and making a team that plays to player’s strengths and creates the attacking threat that we missed in the World Cup

j
john 215 days ago

Wonder who he thinks we should play at tight head we need to win scrums as england we’ll know don’t see anyone at the moment looking international class

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Nigel 215 days ago

When premiership style rugby carries all before it in the European cup, that would be the time to consider adopting it at national level. Until then…

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Dr A 215 days ago

I think Goodey needs to join Borthwicks team. Everything he has to say makes sense, he is a former England international, he knows the lay of the land, rather then firing shots, do something.

Coming 6N, I expect France and Ireland to utterly wipe the floor with everyone in retaliation for their respective WC debacles so Bortho will need all the assistance he can get. I expect England to get completely and utterly floored.

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paul 215 days ago

There’s no guarantee that this style of play will translate to the international game. Defence in the Premiership isn’t at the same level as what we saw in the WC. Scotland are a case in point: lots of attacking endeavour, ut ultimately shut out by the top teams. Still, being entertained once in a while would be nice.

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Tom 215 days ago

Wigglesworth is the attack coach. We aren't going to build on these foundations. This limited gameplan IS the gameplan and it's not good enough. We are going to have the same issues at the next world cup.

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