England missing kicking guru

World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson believes that England’s shocking kicking display is due to the absence of Dave Alred.

The kicking coach lost his job when wholesale changes were made to the England management team earlier this year. Wilkinson wrote in his column in The Times that the homeside were woeful with the boot against South Africa, and somebody like Alred is needed to sort out their kicking game. Under Alred’s tutelage, the English team flourished as the best tactical kickers in the world.

“Field position is massively important, as is using your kicking to relieve pressure,” he said. “But England seemed like two different sides on Saturday, depending on whether they were kicking the ball well or badly.

“I don’t know for certain because I’m not in the squad, but I wonder if they are not missing Dave Alred. I do know how good he was for me and I know too how much confidence it gave me to know I had the best kicking coach in the world working with me on my preparation and self belief.”

Incumbent No 10 Charlie Hodgson had a shocker before he was carried off in the 39th minute, but it has to be said that England’s deficiency in the kicking department cannot be rooted to one player alone.

Hodgson, in fact, kicked seldom, preferring to pass the ball very close to the gain line, which proved to be largely ineffective. The English backline shared the responsibility in affecting clearances, with very mixed results. Ben Cohen is one in particular who had a nightmare with the boot, gifting possession back to the South Africans and allowing them to counterattack.

At times like these, everybody wonders how different the England team would be with Jonny Wilkinson at flyhalf, as he has proven in the past how influential he can be to the outcome of any game.

At present, Wilkinson is recovering from a kidney ailment, and despite talk that he is unlikely to ever make it back to the top, he has not given up hope.

“I have become a bit of a pro in terms of coming back from injury, I know what works best for me,” he said.

“I’m still positive about my long-term future. I know some people are beginning to wonder: how many more knocks can he take? Yes, I do wonder why fate has dealt me this hand. There is a bit of “Why me?” going on inside, but I’ve never questioned whether I can get back again.

“When I do get back, I enjoy it so much. I’m thinking, please, just one more opportunity to play for the Falcons, and yes, even for England.”