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'Suits me': The bold Gleeson ambition as new England attack coach

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Martin Gleeson believes he has the vision to fire up the England attack that misfired in the Six Nations earlier this year, Eddie Jones finishing in a derisory fifth place just months after they clinched the title in Rome on points difference from France when the delayed 2020 championship was concluded.


England scored just twelve tries in their 2021 five matches, eight fewer than tournament winners Wales, but had hardly lit up the scene with their post-2019 World Cup form as Jones’ side scored just 14 tries in that title-winning Six Nations campaign, three tries less than the French and the Irish who bagged 17 tries each. 

It was January 2020 when Simon Amor joined the Jones set-up as the new England attack coach but that role was ended by mutual agreement following an RFU review of the 2021 Six Nations into what had gone wrong. This resulted in Jones searching for a new assistant and that hunt ended at the door of Wasps where Gleeson, the 41-year-old former rugby league coach and player, had done wonders in transforming their attack and helping them to reach the final of the delayed 2019/20 Premiership season.  

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Gleeson has now got down to work with England at their three-day mini-camp in London where 45 players were involved, a number cut to 43 due to Ben Youngs suffering a minor thigh injury when playing for Leicester while Ollie Lawrence was said to be unwell from an issue not connected to Covid.  

With camp breaking up on Tuesday, Gleeson attended his first media briefing since his appointment and he was asked by RugbyPass how Jones convinced him to switch into international rugby after just a couple of years learning the coaching intricacies of the union game at Wasps. “We spoke about the direction the game is going and how the vision for England going forward and the ideas I had around that and he had around that,” he said.

“It was a good fit for the direction the team wants to go in. It’s something that suits me down to the ground and with the calibre of players we have got here, we are hopefully at the start of a nice little journey. Our aim is to win the World Cup in two years’ time and this is the start of the path towards that. There are potentially going to be more opportunities to attack. We have got to be ready to take more opportunities when they come our way and be able to be adaptable to different situations in different teams in the way they defend, especially with the new rules coming in as well. We want a balanced game and we want to be a team that can break down all kinds of defences.   


“It’s tough,” he added when asked for his impression on how the England attack was doing before his arrival. “Games are fine margins at this level. Six Nations as well, a lot of stuff went on behind the scenes, Covid and things that happened on the pitch. I don’t want to talk about what happened previously. What we have set out a vision for the England team going forward looks like the vision of the game we want to play and that is what we are focused on with the new group of players and new coaching staff.” 

Earlier in the briefing, Gleeson outlined his confidence that he can get the job done and added how welcome he was made to feel at camp in the company of Owen Farrell, his fellow Wiganer and current England skipper. “He has been great. The mix we have got between that youth and experience, the players have all mixed well and it’s nice to get a good connection going with the players – and with Owen as well. This mini-camp has been invaluable for me. It’s only a few months since I left Wasps. Being in camp this week, you just get a real feel for it and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. 

“I back myself in what I do. Eddie wanted me for this job because I can get the best out of the exciting group of players he has got at the minute and today [Tuesday] was the first good day on the pitch. There really was a good synergy out there between the staff and the players.

“It [coaching with England] was something I wanted to achieve. It probably came a bit quicker than I expected but it’s something I am ready for and I have got the bit between the teeth. I had a couple of conversations with him [Jones] and then it all happened pretty quickly. I have gotten to know him a lot more in these last couple of months. He is a great person to learn from and hopefully we can have a good relationship going forward.”



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