Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Will Carling

GET UPDATES FROM Will Carling
 

England Rugby Team Selection for a New Culture

Posted: 01/11/2012 06:00

Lots of talk and opinion about the England squad, as always, frustration at some who have not made it and frustration at some who have! It will never change.

But let's be honest, Leicester fans watch their players week in, week out and hence quite rightly argue for their inclusion as they only see the competition once or twice a season, the same going for Wasps, Quins, Saracens fans etc. We all look at it from a biased point of view, or an almost totally ignorant one from the fans that watch very little club rugby at all.

Some have the romantic notion of picking lots of attacking players without any concept for the basics of the game, like set piece, defence etc. Just the wild dream of scoring more tries than the opposition! Dream on!

I think you have to look deeper than just playing form, ability, in this selection though, as I think it tells us much more about Lancaster and his coaches than that.

They are trying to create a new culture within the squad, and that as we all know takes time, and solid foundations. They need the right characters in there on the playing side to lay those foundations. It will never work if you just have coaches 'telling' the players what they want, day after day, it is vital that they have players who understand the vision and also have possess the necessary charisma and belief to pass that onto team mates. For it to be successful, ultimately it has to be driven by the team, not just the coaches.....

One of the huge transitions that I believe England need to make is the move away from the belief in 'entitlement'. It has been one of the most disappointing aspects of certain members in the team for the last four or five years. The classic mistake that because you pull on that shirt, you are 'entitled'...

Entitled to winning games, entitled to respect from people and entitled to sponsorship, profile and success.

All these outcomes need to be earned, and need the classic recipe of bloody hard work, focus and dedication. None are a speedy result and none can be taken for granted.

Lancaster and his team need to flush out any lingering traces of this attitude, and they have to be strong enough to ensure that any players who embody this trait do not get near an England shirt again.

The new culture needs to start with respect for the shirt, not just for the honour of wearing it now, but for its history and the players that have gone before. The shirt symbolises English rugby, all the great players, the characters, the great wins, the amazing successes, alongside the defeats, the hard times and the lessons learnt. And these players, like their predecessors, are the guardian of that shirt, the guardian for each and every game they are fortunate enough to play in it, and they need to be the right character to accept that responsibility. And if each player can strive to pass on that shirt at the end of their guardians' term with just a little bit more success, pride and dignity, then they have been successful.

That takes a certain character, one that is willing to learn and listen, and not just on the training pitch. Wearing an England shirt does not entitle you to endorsements, or respect, those have to be earned just as hard off the pitch as winning has to be earned on it. It takes humility, people skills and an understanding that mixing, chatting and giving time to people is a vital part of wearing the shirt. The goal is to be world class on and off the pitch.

It takes a maturity that I certainly did not have as a twenty two year old, and I am not sure if I even had it as a thirty two year old either. The difference was that I was lucky enough to be surrounded by enough players who did have it.

So Lancaster's job is far from easy. Pick a blend of men, who possess the necessary playing skills but just as importantly the necessary character to create the new culture that will be vital to England's ability to consistently challenge the best teams in the world and beat them.
It certainly makes you look at squad selection with a slightly different perspective.....

 

Follow Will Carling on Twitter: www.twitter.com/willcarling

FOLLOW UK SPORT