(Reuters) – England must rethink their strategy for picking front rowers if they are to overcome their Rugby World Cup disappointment and win the tournament in 2023, former national team coach Clive Woodward has said.
Woodward said former World Cup winning scrum coach Phil Keith-Roach had told coach Eddie Jones of his concerns about the front row prior to the tournament in Japan, where England were beaten by South Africa in the final.
England’s scrum fell apart against the intensity of the Springboks and only during a period midway through the first half did they seriously threaten to score a try.
“Phil had been warning me for a long time that England were going down the wrong route at scrum time in placing too much emphasis on ball-handling props,” Woodward, who coached England to World Cup glory in 2003, wrote in the Daily Mail.
“Phil was invited to make his views known to Eddie but somehow his message didn’t get through. England were a long way down the route of basing their pack on all-singing, all-dancing running props – Kyle Sinckler, Ellis Genge and Mako Vunipola.
“Hardcore scrummagers – particularly Harry Williams and Nick Schonert – gradually disappeared from the equation.”
England had also erred by heading to Japan with five props instead of six in the 31-man squad, Woodward said.
“Look at that 31 now and the minimal roles played by Rory McConnochie, Jack Nowell and Joe Cokanasiga and you wonder why at least one of those was not sacrificed for the more pressing need of another frontline tighthead prop,” he said.
“England got this badly wrong and they need to have a rethink with their front-row strategy.”
Woodward said England were not mentally ready for the final.
“World Cup weeks are simple: nothing changes and it’s important you get all the details right, ‘the one percenters’ as I call them,” he added. “In Japan, I could see lots of one percenters going the other way.
“Joe Marler and Dan Cole were put up at the England press conference two days before the final and I couldn’t believe the Laurel and Hardy routine. It made me very uneasy. It suggested England were not in the right headspace for such a big game.
“Then the plans for a victory parade. In 2003 the possibility of a parade never entered our minds. It was organised after we won.”
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)