England attacking coach is honing a ‘new style of rugby’ that has never been seen before
Martin Gleeson aims for nothing less than a revolution. The England attacking coach was tasked by Eddie Jones with creating a style of play that has never been seen in the 151-year history of international play.
Jones, the England head coach, has long believed that shirt numbers shouldn’t be relevant outside of the free kick. Now, Gleeson, a former Great Britain and England rugby league international, is trying to put into practice that untrained vision that any player can replace scrum-half or first receiver, all in the name of fastball and one-on-one. rugby.
“We want to try and play a new way of playing rugby,” says Gleeson, 41. “We have a vision of how we want to play where we don’t copy anyone else. We want to play a certain way, where we want to generate a fastball, and it doesn’t matter who comes in at nine.
“Because when you’re successful it’s hard to defend and you play what you see. You don’t play on any pre-determined pattern. We can watch and play what’s in front of us at that time and judge accordingly. We want play where there is space.
“It’s harder to implement and there’s a lot of work to be done, but once you get it you become more dangerous and difficult to defend.”
However, the line between total rugby and total populace is very fine, and so far at least the practice has been markedly different from the principle.
Considering the game against Italy an outlier, England’s attack stuttered for long periods against Wales and Scotland, producing just five line breaks and two tries. As Gleeson, brought in by Jones to replace Simon Amor last summer, suggests, this revolution would never involve a smooth and orderly transition.
If a foundation was laid in an undefeated fall, this Six Nations is used to add “layers”. The first aim was to improve England’s kick return, and Gleeson says their numbers have “exploded”.
But getting to the opposition is not the problem. Instead, it’s England’s red-zone efficiency that’s holding them back, with a combined 1.2 and 1.3 points per visit to the opposition 22 against Scotland and the Country. Wales. “On the return from the kick, we took a few breaks being direct and making short passes to get on the front foot and play to the edge if the space was there,” says Gleeson.
“At the moment we’re getting the ball back on the kick return and going down in the 22, but that’s the area where we’re not taking the next step and capitalizing on the work we’re doing to get there. We have a few layers we want to add in. If you leave too soon you will be completely lost.
Marcus Smith’s instinctive skills at flyhalf are at the heart of this vision. Coming from a rugby league background, Gleeson likes Smith’s willingness to attack the line, but at the same time his unpredictability poses a challenge for teammates and opponents alike. “He’s got his goose step and if somebody isn’t used to that, playing outside, then he can get past him,” Gleeson said. “He has to get used to the players around him and the players have to get used to him and the way he plays when he wins the ball.”