England rugby can return to the top

England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson believes Stuart Lancaster’s full-time coaching set-up can see the national XV back flourishing on the field of play.

By Alex Leach

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Published: Tue 30 Oct 2012, 11:59 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:11 PM

Thompson lifted the William Webb Ellis Cup nine years ago, when the Red Rose outfit famously defeated Australia 20-17 with an extra-time drop goal from tournament topscorer Jonny Wilkinson under the studious stewardship of Sir Clive Woodward.

Woodward’s three full-time successors – Andy Robinson, Brian Ashton and Martin Johnson – prior to Lancaster’s appointment failed to recapture those heady heights for a variety of reasons, with no one coming close to matching his enviable 71.1% win percentage ratio. However, Thompson insists Lancaster’s backroom team is now of comparable – if not better – quality than any other nation in world rugby and they can propel England back to the top.

“They’ve got a great coaching structure there,” England’s most-capped hooker enthused at the Eden Park store in Dubai Mall, where UAE Rugby unveiled a sponsorship agreement with the rugby boutique. “They have some of the best coaches not just in England, but in Europe, if not the world.

“You can see the players love playing for those coaches, which makes a massive difference.

“Before he had part-time coaches, whereas now he’s got a full-time coaching structure in place with Andy Farrell, Mike Catt and Graham Rowntree. It needed a big shake-up and, with Stuart Lancaster coming in, he’s really got hold of things and changed the ethos and thinking back to how England fought a few years ago.”

Lancaster’s England will need to bridge the gap to Steve Hansen’s All Blacks side if they are to be considered serious World Cup challengers once more and that task seemingly requires a pragmatic and simplistic approach.

“It’s just about going back to basics,” Thompson added. “Everyone tries to redevelop the wheel as such, but it’s not about that.

“It’s about going out there and doing your basics well. That’s all New Zealand do well.

“It looks like they play fancy rugby, but they don’t. They just win their lineouts, win the scrums and keep the pressure on. They’ve got good game-breakers, but even those players are not ‘all singing and dancing’.”

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