LONDON Oct 28 Lawrence Dallaglio and Mike Catt
have become the first England players to openly criticise Brian
Ashton's coaching methods during the World Cup.
The coach came under fire at the start of the tournament
after England's poor start. Even though the team reached the
final against South Africa last weekend, Ashton has been the
subject of numerous attacks in newspapers from unnamed players.
"Head coach of the England team demands management skills
that Brian does not have," Dallaglio said in extracts of his
autobiography published in the Sunday Times.
Dallaglio said Ashton, unlike Clive Woodward who adopted
scientific methods in 2003, was happy for the players to make
decisions for themselves with team meetings kept to a minimum.
He said the squad were not given the direction they needed
and that reaching the final was a "victory in itself".
Referring to England's coaching set-up, which also included
John Wells who worked with the forwards and Mike Ford, the
backs' coach, Dallaglio said: "Right from the start it seemed
they had different ideas about what the team should be doing."
"Had a stranger walked in on any training session before the
World Cup he would not have had a clue who was in charge."
Dallaglio said the situation reached crisis point in a
meeting after the humbling 36-0 defeat by South Africa in the
pool, a game that Dallaglio was not selected for.
"It was a tough meeting for Brian, something you realised
when you heard Olly Barkley, who had worked with Brian at Bath,
say: 'Look Brian, no one's got a clue how we're supposed to be
playing here. If you asked the 15 players who played against
South Africa to write down the game plan, you'd get 15 different
answers.' It was harsh but it was true."
Dallaglio said England developed a siege mentality partly
because of media criticism but also because "we weren't getting
a lot of direction from the coaches".
"When the messages you are receiving don't have the clarity
you need, there is a natural inclination for players to pull
closer together, a survival instinct that says unless they do it
themselves, they're going under."
Catt, who came back into the side for the France semi-final,
said preparation for the tournament had poor.
"I found it baffling we did not seem to have any analysis on
our opening Group A opponents, the United States, nor have a
game plan of what to do against them," he said in extracts of
his autobiography in the Mail on Sunday.
"I felt he did not coach us as he knew. When you have
coached a certain way for 25 years, surely you don't change it
at the most important hour of your career."
"We went into the South Africa (pool game) with no
direction, no shape and, consequently no belief. It was the
worst week I had known in international rugby," added Catt, who
also announced his retirement from the international game.