Image:Rugby Union – England v Australia – IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool A – Twickenham Stadium, London, England – 3/10/15England’s Chris Robshaw looks dejected as he leaves the field at the end of the matchReuters / Eddie K..
By Nick Said
LONDON (Reuters) – England’s early exit from the Rugby World Cup could be blamed on a lack of forward planning that left them devoid of tournament experience.
England have only seven players with previous World Cup appearances in their squad, less than any of the other major contenders, and that lack of experience cost them dear in the big moments in defeats by Wales and Australia.
The latter, by contrast, have 17 players who have been to the World Cup before, two more than Wales, who are joint-second with South Africa on the list among this year’s likely contenders.
The Springboks had nine players from their 2007-winning squad in their original selection before captain Jean de Villiers dropped out with a fractured draw.
Coach Heyneke Meyer is a firm believer in having players who understand the environment at critical times, something England could not call on when it was needed.
When England lifted the World Cup trophy in 2003 they did so with a group of players who knew those challenges. Fast-forward 12 years and it is a different scenario altogether.
Whether it is fair to point the finger of blame at coach Stuart Lancaster is a matter of debate as he was limited by his predecessors’ selections.
None of the players from that 2003 side are still active, while only seven of the squad chosen for the 2007 tournament were born after 1980.
None came into the reckoning for the original squad this year, meaning England would have been the only side in the 2015 competition without a player from the France tournament eight years ago had they not drafted in 37-year-old number eight Nick Easter late on.
Australia’s Matt Giteau, France’s Frederic Michalak, New Zealanders Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu, and Springbok Schalk Burger have all been influential players in 2015, having made their debuts 12 years ago.
All were born in the 1980s, though, and given the opportunity back then which English players of a similar age were not.
That, perhaps, is the telling point.
Although England became champions that year, the failure to select one or two younger players could have affected the progress of future teams.
With a third of their squad this year aged 24 or younger, and only five of the original players selected aged over 30, the Japan World Cup in 2019 should see a lot more players looking to put the horrors of 2015 behind them.
(Editing by Ed Osmond; firstname.lastname@example.org; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com; +27 83 272 2948)
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