- David Wilson promoted to Senior EPS, Mako Vunipola to Saxons EPS
- Lancaster discusses new BMW Performance Academy
Photo: Getty Images
Stuart Lancaster has announced that Bath Rugby prop David Wilson is to replace Matt Stevens in his Senior Elite Player Squad, with Stevens’ Saracens teammate Mako Vunipola promoted into the Saxons group.
The England Head Coach was a prop light in his 32-man squad after 44-cap Stevens announced he was retiring from the international game with immediate effect on August 9 and, as expected, he looked to the Saxons for a replacement.
Speaking at the launch of the BMW Performance Academy, an initiative with the new RFU sponsor to offer tailored development programmes for England’s most promising players, Lancaster said both players deserve the chance to step up after impressive starts to the season.
“It’s a great opportunity for David, he’s had a few injury problems but he’s benefited from working under Toby Booth and Neal Hatley at Bath, with their good conditioning there,” he said.
“He’s looking in good nick, has started the season well and deserves this chance.
“Mako has been involved in the age-grade programme for a long time, and his brother Billy is not doing too badly either to be fair. Mako has played well for the Under 20s and now has the opportunity to step into the Saxons and although the programme doesn’t start until the Six Nations, if he keeps playing well I’m sure he’ll force his case, and, if not by then, hopefully on the tour to Argentina.”
Photo: Getty Images
It was appropriate that Lancaster was discussing the progression of a young player through the RFU National Academy system, given the increased investment to be applied to the scheme by BMW.
The car manufacturer has become shirt sponsor for England’s Under 16, Under 18 and Under 20 teams and is directing funds and expertise towards those players selected for the BMW Performance Academy.
The initial pool of more than 30 players – from the representative teams and those aged over 20 close to breaking into the senior squad – has been selected by the England coaches on their considered potential to graduate to the elite England team.
The bespoke and individually tailored programmes are determined by club and international coaches and the players themselves, and can take many forms, as Lancaster explained.
“The BMW Performance Academy extends to technical support, tactical support, mental support in terms of coping with big pressure or belief, it could be a leadership thing or a physical thing. The support encompasses different facets.
“The cyclists talk about it well, they talk about putting the athlete at the centre of the programme – what’s best for the athlete. What’s best for Joe Launchbury might be different to Kyle Sinckler or Anthony Watson, they’re all different. It’s about profiling the player first and foremost, finding out what his strengths and weaknesses are, then building on the strengths and supporting the weaknesses."
Photo: Getty Images
The ten players initially named are: Brett Herron, Max Clarke, Maro Itoje, Anthony Watson, Scott Wilson, Kyle Sinckler, Jack Clifford, George Ford, Elliot Daly and Joe Launchbury. Lancaster used Leicester Tigers and England Saxons fly half Ford as an example of the tangible benefits which could supported by the scheme.
He added: “It can be a club-country support model – for example if you take George, we did something with Leicester a couple of years ago where we wanted to improve his 10m and 40m times, his speed off the mark.
“So we supported Leicester with a sprint coach/movement specialist who then tailored a weights programme to help him with his power and speed. That was jointly funded by ourselves and the Tigers so it was a joined model between George, Tigers and ourselves to get him quicker – which obviously is going to help Leicester and England.”