Neil wants England to nurture new breed of back-row forwards

5 November 2015 - 9:58am

Neil has urged the Rugby Football Union to put more emphasis on skill development and decision-making when it comes to nurturing England’s back-row forwards.

Stuart Lancaster’s charges were knocked out of their own World Cup after defeats to Wales and Australia, with the semi-final line-up composed entirely of Southern Hemisphere teams.

New Zealand and Australia, in particular, have elevated their work at the breakdown to a new level through the intelligence, technique and bravery of players such as David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.

Neil insists that the breakdown is an increasingly crucial battleground in every match and an area in which England are being exposed through a failure to develop back rows with different skill sets.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, he said: "In the Premiership our flankers are all magnolia - so big, strong and very committed. We're not producing players like Richie McCaw, Michael Hooper or David Pocock and we need to find them.

"I'd allocate more time to skill development and decision-making, particularly in the contact area because that's where we need to improve massively. In the past we've gone big, strong and physical, when we need to balance that with skill as well. That's what happens in the southern hemisphere. You need a player in the team whose sole responsibility is to provide continuity, while preventing the continuity of the opposition.

"I believe changes will begin to happen this season. The people at our clubs are highly motivated and skilled. They want to take the game forward. We need to improve our attack philosophy and I'm hoping this World Cup will bring about a change in our thinking, so more ball in hand and an improvement in the skills needed to play that type of game.

"There have been lots of tries already this season in the Premiership and there needs to be massive change because otherwise we'll just fall further behind."