Union’s lesson in back play

England Interim Head Coach Stuart Lancaster (centre) with coaches Andy Farrell (left) and Graham Rowntree (right) during the press conference at Twickenham Stadium, London
England Interim Head Coach Stuart Lancaster (centre) with coaches Andy Farrell (left) and Graham Rowntree (right) during the press conference at Twickenham Stadium, London
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ENGLAND’S new rugby union coach has revealed he is using Saints’ sparkling back-play as a template for his side.

Interim head coach Stuart Lancaster screened footage of a string of Saints tries, while chatting about his side’s attacking blueprint at a media briefing in Leeds to promote this year’s Six Nations.

Lancaster, who appointed rugby league legend Andy Farrell to his new-look England coaching team following the departure of Martin Johnson, emphasised the importance of speed and alignment in the backs, as well as support being provided for line-breaks.

And one former cross-code international agrees that there’s still plenty rugby union can learn from rugby league.

TV commentator Ray French, who won an MBE for services to rugby league, added: “I spoke to Stuart Lancaster at length, and was impressed with his willingness to learn from rugby league.

“He clearly has a great interest in rugby league – I know he’s spoken to Tony Smith at Warrington recently, too – and he was very knowledgable about it.

“It’s obvious to me, and no doubt to him, that England’s rugby union side don’t play good enough attacking rugby. And the back play in rugby league has a lot to be admired. At Saints, in particular, open rugby is the hallmark.”

Following England’s disappointing, not to mention controversial, Rugby World Cup campaign, Lancaster has rung the changes prior to the Six Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 4.

Among the new faces is Wigan legend Andy Farrell’s 20-year-old son, up-and-coming Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell. Code-switcher Chris Ashton looks set to retain his place on the wing.

Ray went on: “The stodgy performances at the rugby union world cup were appalling. Never mind the off the field incidents, on the field England looked like they were attacking in slow motion!”