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England Counties forge links with Chile

12 July 2002

While the England Counties XV impressed with their performances on the pitch, it is the work done by three members of the Rugby Football Union coaching and development team that could leave a lasting impression on rugby in Chile. 
As Tony Windo and his men wooed the crowds with their running, open rugby, behind the scenes Evan Crawford, Steve Peters and Dave Rose were ensuring that players and referees of all abilities were not forgotten. 
Led by Crawford, the Head of Coaching Development at the RFU, Peters, a Rugby Development Officer in Cheshire, and Rose, a Rugby Referee Development Officer, put coaches, local children, club players and referees through their paces.
The clinics provided a rare chance for all those involved in rugby in Chile to experience first-hand the types of drills and coaching sessions that are common practice in the more established rugby nations. 
All three were impressed by the Chileans' eagerness to learn and Rose, a member of the Elite Referee Unit, said: "I was impressed by their knowledge and their desire to learn and improve.
"They responded to things very well and were quite perceptive. They have been fantastic and their thirst for knowledge is wonderful."
He added: "But what they lack is experience and experience of the game outside Chile. They are very insular when it comes to that."
Crawford, a New Zealander, who has coached the Portugal national side and was the Director of Coaching for the New Zealand Rugby Union for six-and-a-half years, admitted the lack of funding for development of the game in Chile came as no surprise.
"There are a lot of well-meaning, hard-working amateur and semi-professional people doing a fantastic job, but they are so constricted by the lack of finance and a lack of funding," he said.
"Countries like Chile can often field a national team, an under-21 or under-19 team and sometimes even a women's team, but you find that development is the last to gain funding."
He continued: "The International Rugby Board are trying really hard, through profits from the World Cup, to introduce funding and expertise into developing nations.        
"As an executive member of the IRB, the RFU can work with the IRB to help develop those nations.
"From a purely selfish point of view, if we want to call rugby a world-wide game we've got to do something.
"We've five or six teams that currently play each other on a regular basis.  If we can bring more teams, like we did with Italy, into competitions and bring them up to a higher level then we can talk about a global game. 
"At the moment only a handful of teams can really challenge for the World Cup and until we can increase that number we can't really say it is a global game.
"The IRB already have a policy aimed at development and hopefully countries like England can go on with helping developing nations with IRB assistance.
"The fact we were in Chile recognises that. They are talented players, no doubt about that, but they need to be supported and get on-going support to get better with better coaches and better referees. 
"Without sounding patronising, they can't help themselves, they need outside help and I think the RFU should be applauded for their initiative."
Crawford however, warned against countries like England going to developing nations and laying down rules on how they should progress. 
"We have to avoid the 'big brother' syndrome," he said. "We have to be wary.  We can't have a big brother approach with us telling them this is the only way to do. We have to help them find their own way of doing things that suits them best."
Peters revealed the team were wary that the project could be seen as a one-off but insisted that assistance would continue. 
"We're very aware this could be seen as a 'one-hit wonder'. But we've got contacts now and hope we can do some follow-ups," he said.  "We've made a few suggestions to them about ways to continue with their development. For example, we've said that if one of the school teams decide to visit England then they should try to bring not just ex-pat school teachers but also Chilean nationals as well."
Rose added: "We suggested also that they could take a couple of referees with them so they can experience refereeing in England. That way they can build the experience and take it forward and develop further."
Peters continued: "We're also looking at the possibility of some coaches coming over to work alongside the Development Officers at the RFU to see what things work and getting hands on experience."
The clinics, and the tour as a whole, were just part of what the RFU hopes will be an on-going initiative to encourage the development of rugby in countries outside the top echelons of the game.
And judging by the success of the trip to Chile, both on and off the field, it is an initiative that is here to stay.