Graham Henry believes England’s attacking woes are rooted in a flawed national mindset rather than a lack of talented personnel.
Speaking on therugbysite.com, the former All Blacks coach described England as the ‘world champions of wasting talent’ and said that unless they change their outdated approach they will continue to struggle against southern hemisphere opposition. Henry’s harsh words come just a week before the Six Nations and four months before England travel to South Africa for a three-Test series.
‘England has top-drawer attacking players [but] they are seldom used,’ Henry said. ‘At national level and at club level English teams are far too worried about securing possession. They are obsessed with sealing off the ball carrier. They are paranoid that an opponent might steal the ball and so everyone jams on the brakes and seals off possession.
‘It is fearful and often illegal. OK, so the opposition can’t get at the ball, but there is no dynamic forward momentum and nobody is being shifted out of the defensive line. No wonder England had trouble scoring tries against the better teams at the World Cup.’
Interim coach Stuart Lancaster has promised to install a new culture following the embarrassing English antics at last year’s global tournament in New Zealand. As far as Henry is concerned, there also needs to be a shift in mindset, and it has to start with this week’s clash with Scotland.
‘England has a backline to get excited about but they will never fulfil their potential unless the team can win quick ball. This needs a total change of policy for the Six Nations. England must go to Murrayfield and stick it to the opposition. They have to smash the Scottish forwards past the ball instead of conservatively stopping at the tackled player in order to secure possession.
‘A country with over a million players should be the best team in the world and England’s potential in the backs is as good as it has ever been. Ben Foden’s a good player, Chris Ashton is a handful and Delon Armitage has always impressed me. But how frustrated those players must get in a white shirt. England and the English clubs play a game based on fear and a generation of promising backs are dying on their feet. That has to change.’