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FEATURE – What do England coaches look for in young players?

17 October 2012

  • England age grade coaches Fletcher and Walton on talent I.D
  • You need to know what talent looks like – Fletcher

England Under 18 head coach John Fletcher says that it’s all about experience when it comes to identifying young players with the potential to go all the way.

Former Newcastle Falcons Director of Rugby Fletcher coached the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Phil Dowson, Mathew Tait, Toby Flood and Lee Dickson during his tenure at Kingston Park, making him more than qualified to cast an assertive eye over the next generation of England hopefuls.

English youngsters Owen Farrell and George Ford representing England Under 18

Photo: Getty Images

“I’ve coached players who have gone on and done well, and that’s the best way to judge,” he said. “So a young George Ford was compared to a Wilkinson or a Flood and that’s where the benchmark is.

“You need to know what talent looks like and we know what it looks like because we’ve coached talented players in the past. I'm looking for players with pace, skill and a little bit of physicality.”

Fletcher added: “Backs tend to get identified relatively early because what you look for is mainly their pace and their skill, forwards come through a little later so Peter Walton and Ian Peel’s job is a little trickier than mine!"

Owen Farrell and George Ford in England Under 20 colours

Photo: Getty Images

The man with the ‘tougher’ job Walton added: “I’m looking for lads who are prepared to the hard yards, prepared to get stuck in and do the dirty work.

"They have to be able to do the set-piece but we can work on that, but I want them to put their bodies on the line.

“You have to look at athletic ability, but there is a certain criteria, the big thing for me as a forwards coach is identifying a player who can do all of the basics very well.”