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Historically, why isn't England better?

ChicagoKid

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This isn't a troll post or anything. Last Saturday's Irish victory got me thinking about what it takes to be a top international rugby team.

1.) First, you need funding. Look at the Pacific Islanders, great, great talent but lacking a financial structure, and hence you get mass amounts of corruption.

2.) Second, you need players. Best coach in the world can't turn an average player into a superstar. And with rugby so physical, you really need 31 top-level international players to compete consistently.

3.) Culture of fan support. Any team in any sport can have fan support when the team is winning. But does the country have a culture of supporting rugby from the bottom up?

I'd have to spend a bunch of time in excel, but when you measure these three critical areas, it's hard not to place England at the very top of the list.

Most of the top rugby nations are lagging in one area or another, but England has the money, culture, and broad player base to consistently be at the top.

My question is, what haven't they been?
 
Culture. English rugby for a long time has been slow to adapt to changes and is inherently pretty conservative. There also seems to be a lack of killer instinct or, contrary to the popular claim, that "arrogance" to think you should be the ones to go the whole way. Certain teams have an "aura" about them, England haven't apart from the 2003 lot. Many English teams seem to lack that mental fortitude to fight through setbacks and be on the ball for a full 80 mins.

Lastly, everyone wants to beat us. It's not the same as for the ABs though, everyone wants to beat them because they are the best and it's a great trophy. Everyone wants to beat us because it's England. Whilst we have maybe 1 or 2 games we may view as a high stakes game against a team we really want to beat, far more teams view the game against us in that same way and turn up the intensity. If you look at the 6N I'd say the Welsh, Scottish and French certainly view us as the big one they would want to win even if they lost every other game.

The rest of the 6N sides don't really have a natural rivalry with the SANZAAR sides, although the Kiwis may view the Irish as a rival now due to recent results. England is the rival for every SANZAAR nation. I think we face sides with just a bit more motivation and who feel they have a bit more at stake in beating us than many other teams face.
 
This isn't a troll post or anything. Last Saturday's Irish victory got me thinking about what it takes to be a top international rugby team.

1.) First, you need funding. Look at the Pacific Islanders, great, great talent but lacking a financial structure, and hence you get mass amounts of corruption.

2.) Second, you need players. Best coach in the world can't turn an average player into a superstar. And with rugby so physical, you really need 31 top-level international players to compete consistently.

3.) Culture of fan support. Any team in any sport can have fan support when the team is winning. But does the country have a culture of supporting rugby from the bottom up?

I'd have to spend a bunch of time in excel, but when you measure these three critical areas, it's hard not to place England at the very top of the list.

Most of the top rugby nations are lagging in one area or another, but England has the money, culture, and broad player base to consistently be at the top.

My question is, what haven't they been?
Can you elaborate on why you think the culture of fan support from the bottom up is important? And what do you mean by fan support?
 
Yep. I'd go along with all of that. Not even sure I have much to add?

We've also had periods where the coaching set-up has been sub par. Pretty much any time post 2003 until Eddie Jones was some form of compromise. For whatever reason top international coaches either weren't interested or were overlooked in favour of poor appointments like Robinson, Johnson or Lancaster. The latter two were basically over-promoted. Johnson could have had promise if he'd been given a few years to earn his stripes from a coaching POV and Lancaster has lots of good qualities, but isn't a number 1.

On the 'culture' piece, English rugby is not actually very well supported. You have a relatively small amount of 'real' rugby fans (such as you find here) and lots of people that fancy a boozy day out at Twickenham but still think we should be picking Cipriani or Wilkinson at 10. Rugby is dwarfed by football here, whereas historically it's been the national sport in NZ and Wales. Ireland is a bit different but with a successful national team (in comparison to he football teams) and successful provinces, the main competition is from Gaelic sports which don't have the international profile.
 
Also I don't think it's a coincidence that the two countries whose club game and international game are completely separate from each other (England and France) are the two that regularly underperform at international level

Wouldn't trade it, though, tbh. Would never want to see RFU sponsored franchises instead of actual longstanding clubs
 
I mean last 5 years England have
78% win record
1 Rugby world cup final
3 Six Nations championship (1 runner up)
1 Grand Slam
We're not exactly bad despite what our supporters and media might say.

We also don't have 1 negative win loss record yet (Could change v SA this weekend)
 
I mean last 5 years England have
78% win record
1 Rugby world cup final
3 Six Nations championship (1 runner up)
1 Grand Slam
We're not exactly bad despite what our supporters and media might say.

We also don't have 1 negative win loss record yet (Could change v SA this weekend)
generally right on, my first thought to the thread was...theyre pretty good though arent they?

dont you have a negative win/loss against the AB's?
 
On culture, Its hard to explain but I think a country's rugby culture is a massive reason for its success. There is an element of success breads success. In countries where rugby is hugely popular and every town has a team, they produce a lot of high quality players who play the game from a young age. These players play eachother and push eachother to be better. This in turn pushes up the quality of the local representative teams and then eventually the national team. These players then become coaches and pass on what they know to the next generation. New zealand and Wales are the best examples of this, South africa aswell.

It's not to say that England doesn't have this 'rugby culture' but with a more diverse population and so many other sports also being popular I think it isn't as strong as those countries above. For instance I could imagine a scenario in England where a player takes up the sport late and goes on to become a professional whereas I think this is less likely in New Zealand because almost every kid plays rugby so less people take it up late.

Another thing that should be on your list is structures. It's been mentioned already but they have a big impact. The game in ireland and new zealand is built towards making the national team as good as possible. Wales, Scotland and South africa also have similar models. The provinces in ireland work with the national team to achive their goals. In England each club is independent from eachother and the national team which leads to conflict. Good examples in Ireland of this cooperation is when players are rested by provinces so they are ready for internationals, players are encouraged to move to another province so they play more regularly and become options for the national team, players play in positions for their provinces to suit the national team. A good contrast to this in England is when Sam burgess moved to Union and his club wanted him to be a forward and his national team wanted him to be a back. Olyy mentions he prefers the English system and I can see why. It leads to a strong club game however I do think could get the balance a bit better and they would improve a lot!

All in all doh England are very successful. I for one am grateful they don't have the rugby culture or structures of new zealand or nobody would ever beat them!
 
Successful or not we've still struggled for WC players in a few positions. Without discussing the reasons for that, you look at at SA who constantly build massive great forwards or NW who constantly produce mobile forwards with great ball handling skills and then England, we produce some big men, some smaller skilful ones and we always kinda end up stuck in the middle a little bit.

I think trying to be different styles with also the clubs also playing massively different styles also has an effect when all the players come together for England.
 
generally right on, my first thought to the thread was...theyre pretty good though arent they?

dont you have a negative win/loss against the AB's?
Overall we do (Aus is the only Tri nations we have a positive win record against, and if we beat SA today we'll be level)
In the last 5yrs we're 1 -1
 
Overall we do (Aus is the only Tri nations we have a positive win record against, and if we beat SA today we'll be level)
In the last 5yrs we're 1 -1
Oh, I'm with ya, fair play
 
It certainly doesn't help when you're probably the team everybody wants to beat. I've watched exasperated many times as a Wales team for example have defended their try line against England to what seems to be the point of death almost, when a week earlier they've looked half arsed against the likes of Scotland.
 
Also with regards to support, if you look at the Premiership you will find that the vast majority of clubs are poorly supported, certainly when you compare attendances to football for example.

I know loads and loads of English people who have little to no interest in rugby apart from when the 6 Nations is on or there is a World Cup.
 
All of the above but we could easily have been looking at 3x RWC winners which would have given the question a different perspective.

91 final was thrown away by not playing to our pack strength / hand of Campese.

07 - Cueto's try.

Our player numbers also count against us sometimes. If it's not quite working there are always other options to try rather than investing longer term in a smaller pool of players.
 
A huge point that I haven't seen mentioned is the way we manage our players. Aside from the RWC 2019, I can recall since Woodward's days the last time we picked our strongest XV. When I look at SA, NZ and Ireland at their peaks you got very similar teams barring the odd injury season after season. England always seem to have at least half a dozen of our strongest XV injured
I would imagine this is a combination of too many games, a lack of EFU control over players or inferior sports science compared to other top nations
 
Our player numbers also count against us sometimes. If it's not quite working there are always other options to try rather than investing longer term in a smaller pool of players.
I'm absolutely convinced that this is the case.

Let's assume that talent is a bell curve; the really, really, outrageously gifted are right over on the right-hand side and you don't get them very often. You certainly don't get 23 of them at once. There are always youngsters making their way, old-timers who are slightly over the hill and players who are at their peak but aren't *that* good and never will be.

Because England have a lot of players, as you move slightly to the left on the curve, the number of players who are 'international standard but never going to be absolute World-class' and 'very good club player who might get a cap or two in a crisis' goes up exponentially. It then becomes difficult to get combinations right, or to make the best selections.

At the moment, England have problems at lock. Itoje is one of two current world-class players, Hill is probably international standard (yes, I rate him more than most of you...), then there are lots of very good club players.

We have problems at scrum half. Youngs is probably international standard, or was at one point, but seems to be in decline. After that, Robson and Quirke and Randall and Mitchell and van Poortvliet may all be world-beaters, but we have no idea which one is best.

Sorting out the rest of the backs and the back row is difficult even before you start playing people out of position to shoe-horn them into the side. There are undoubtedly going to be international-standard back rowers who never get a cap. The best 8 in the Premiership (whoever you think that may be) can't get in the side because there's a 6 in the way; he in turn is being kept out by a lock.

In short, you could pick another England XV which would quite possibly beat the current one, especially if Smith and Itoje weren't selected for either team.
 
I think there's a lot to be said about the very best athletes in a country focusing on soccer and Olympic sports too. Population can only do so much when you're battling for that 4-7 spot and losing the top, top tier athletes. Like I look at Kyle Walker and think he'd be an unbelievable rugby player if he'd gone that way, but it was always so unlikely it'd happen.

It's actually why Ireland are incredibly impressive and not super embarrassing at world cups. 4th most popular sport and a tiny population? We're basically a better Fiji.
 
I'd also say that there is a diminishing returns to depth. Let's England's best 200 players are better than any other country's best 200 players; does that really mean anything? No really. What matters is probably how good your best 50 players are and what positions they play. Meaning you need to be able to develop at the key positions. So yes being big is an advantage but it's not as much of a slam dunk as you'd think.

And creating a really good national team with 30-40 players depends less on player base but rather starts on getting enough players who are able to get to that level, then curating them to a unit that are able to play at high performance.
 
If I was a billionaire I'd give the Fijian RFU a couple of bill and build them a state of the art training facility, contract the best 50 Fijians players to a super rugby side, sit back and watch them dominate world rugby for the next century at which point this thread would be redundant.
 
Genetics.

Would you rather choose from 1 million random Fijian men or 5 million random Japanese men to start a rugby team.

And as others said, a lot of the top athletes in england will play football.

Can you name another country who has historically been better than England at rugby and football.
 

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