Clive Woodward believes that northern hemisphere rugby must undergo a radical transformation.
Writing in the Daily Mail today, Clive Woodward has outlined the steps necessary for northern hemisphere sides to compete with their rivals south of the equator.
The last few days have seen numerous writers point out the problems with northern hemisphere rugby, with analysts blaming everything from the underage structures, to the lack of the bonus point system in the Six Nations. However few have outlined what needs to be done in order for the gap to be closed on the Rugby Championship.
However that seems to be changing today with the publication of Woodward’s article. The World Cup winning coach argues that the northern hemisphere sides should not simply copy the systems and structures elsewhere, but instead focus on the principles of the game.
copy and you come second at best, but we seem to have forgotten some of the simple principles of what this game is about.
This is a game about speed, space and being bloody tough. I can’t help but feel we are too obsessed with the latter.
The tackle this issue, Woodward believes that northern teams must first focus on fitness. The former England coach believed that England and France in particular ‘appeared heavy and slow… The days when brute strength and power win you anything are long gone’.
Secondly Woodward argues that attention must be paid to handling and basic skills. What was clear throughout the World Cup is that the Six Nations teams prefer to go through phase chains rather than attack space. This was most evident during the Wales’ defeat to Australia, when the Welsh could not score against 13 men.
In order to improve handling and encourage players identify space, Woodward believes that there should be more of an emphasis on sevens rugby in the northern hemisphere.
We have turned our backs on sevens as a way of polishing up ball skills in aspiring Test players. Our sevens squad just produce sevens players these days.
The third issue he raised is in regard to squad selection. Once more Woodward points the finger at England and France, accusing them teams of picking ‘big, slow back row and a midfield trio founded on defence, not attack… Ball carriers win you nothing, ball players can take on the world.
Woodward also accuses the northern hemisphere of becoming too dependent on the defensive philosophy imported from rugby league coaches. Although he recognises the impact league defence coaches have had on union, Woodward urges that they need to be ‘counterbalanced by top rugby union attacking brains’.
The current ITV pundit also demanded that club sides and owners do more to support nationals teams. once more he points the finger at both England and France in this regard, arguing,
English professional rugby should be 13 teams: 12 Premiership clubs and the international team all working on one very clear agenda.
Woodward then states that the Six Nations has gone stale and believes that it is necessary to introduce the bonus point system to encourage ‘positive rugby’. While he also proposed that the tournament include a relegation and promotion play off with the team who wins the European Nations Cup.
All of the above points are worth considering. However, he also believes that there should be better co-ordination between the Home Nations. This I feel is a bit strange, as the Celtic club/provincial sides all compete in the same league and have also centrally contracted their best players.
As a result it will be far easier for ‘Celtic fringe’ to introduce the root and branch changes listed above.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena