LONDON, Oct 28 (Reuters) - 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.