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The Care, Youngs verdict on new England assistant Wigglesworth

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Danny Care and Ben Youngs have given their verdict on having their old rival for the England No9 shirt, Richard Wigglesworth, now coaching them at international level as a new assistant coach under Steve Borthwick. Care and record men’s caps holder Youngs would have competed for many years with Wigglesworth for Test selection.

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Wigglesworth won 33 caps during his decade-long stint in the England set-up from 2008 to 2018. Care, meanwhile, who also debuted at Test level in 2008, has 87 caps while Youngs, who was first capped in 2010, has 122 caps.

The respective Harlequins and Leicester scrum-halves are amongst the quartet of four No9s competing for Rugby World Cup squad selection, a process that began in June when England first assembled for pre-season training.

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England World Cup kit

Having moved on at the end of the 2022/23 season from his interim role as Leicester head coach to work as an assistant under Borthwick, these past few weeks have been Wigglesworth’s first involvement as a Test squad coach and veterans Care and Youngs have now shared their thoughts about the new coach’s influence since coming into the fold.

Speaking on the latest edition of O2 Inside Line, the weekly documentary series charting the England build-up to the finals in France, Care said: “He [Wigglesworth] was always going to be a coach, he played like that and I think he has taken to it like a duck to water.

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“He has got an incredible skill set of being able to switch from both, so he is that authoritative coach that you need and he gives us clear guidance of what he wants and what he expects. If you don’t meet it, you will know about it.

“He is the same as a player but then he is still a clown at heart. He is still this northern joker that you can have a laugh with and he has been able to flick that switch, play darts together or have a game of pool, have a laugh with him and then it’s like, ‘Right, get your box kick on the money’.

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“He has got that knack of being able to do that and the players have loved worked with him already. He is only going to get better and better. The standards he set as a player, he is going to be exactly the same as a coach and he will be a very good coach. He already is.

“I have never met a more competitive person, a more competitive scrum-half. He was someone you had to raise your standards against. His kicking game I would probably say is still one of the best in the world. Still now in training and he is just a coach, his kicking game is still phenomenal.”

Youngs agreed. “He would probably say this himself, when he was a player he was unapologetically him. Like, ‘This is what we are doing and this is how we are doing it, I don’t want to hear a bar of it and if you are offended by it, I’m not bothered, you need to hear it’.

“As a coach, you can’t be like that. If he is coaching and speaking to myself and Danny, there has got to be dialogue, got to be back and forward and, of course, you come to solutions.

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“He has done a phenomenal job in terms of that transition. Also, he arrived sooner than he was planning on in terms of that mid-season (at Leicester), suddenly having to hang up the boots and do what he did – but he did an amazing job.”

It was Borthwick, as the Leicester boss, who facilitated Wigglesworth being a player-coach at Gallagher Premiership level and the rapport between the pair led to Borthwick offering Wigglesworth an assistant role with England. The head coach explained why.

“He [Wigglesworth] has an incredible understanding of this game. More so than the vast majority of coaches that I have met. He understands the tactical element to the game, has a very clear picture of what he wants to get, and he is really strong in getting that message across to players, really powerful in the way he delivers messages.

“The players have such enormous respect for him, partly because of everything he has achieved, but partly because they see his understanding of this game and they know they can get better working with him, and also because of how passionate he is about English rugby.”

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3 Comments
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Coach 355 days ago

Why do England rugby players, current and retired often say 'he is the best in the world?" Whose world, in his county maybe, but probably not either. It burns my ring when these POMS talk about the best in the world. Dupont, Smith, and a few other, would highly disagree. Just arrogant is what it is. Period!!!

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William 3 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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