ONE training session turned around England’s dismal rugby World Cup campaign last year when the defending champions were on the verge of elimination, according to coach Brian Ashton.
England, humiliated 36-0 by eventual champions South Afr
ica in the group stages, rallied to beat Samoa and Tonga and reach the knockout stages where they defeated Australia and hosts France to reach the final for the second successive tournament.
In an interview in The Independent newspaper yesterday, Ashton described the notorious emergency meeting when the team sat down with the management to thrash out a survival plan after the South Africa defeat.
Autobiographies published since the tournament by former captain Lawrence Dallaglio and Mike Catt have suggested Ashton was out of his depth as coach and the players had been forced to take command.
“There was a good deal of talk, very honest talk, and everyone who wanted to make a contribution did so. Contrary to popular belief, there was no swearing that I can remember,” Ashton said.
“What I do remember is a considerable amount of disagreement between the players themselves about things we’d done in the buildup to the tournament. What emerged was a need for clarity.”
Ashton said the tournament had turned around during a training session in Versailles.
“It took us one training session in Versailles, conducted at half pace, a session witnessed by quite a few members of the public who couldn’t have understood the significance of what they were watching,” he said.
“It was a matter of going back to the principles we’d discussed at our camp in Bath in late June. The moment that training session was over, I was confident we’d get the victory we needed against the Samoans.” — Reuters