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Page last updated at 23:37 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Coaches insist England are united

International: England v New Zealand
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday 21 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: Live on Sky Sports 2, BBC Radio 5 live, highlights on BBC Three at 1900 and BBC Two at 1130 on Sunday. Text commentary on BBC Sport website

England attack coach Brian Smith, head coach Martin Johnson and forwards coach John Wells
England have not impressed so far this autumn

England's under-fire coaching staff have insisted there are no behind-the-scenes differences over the style in which they want the team to play.

After two poor displays, critics have suggested players are receiving mixed messages from the coaching team.

But, with a game against New Zealand looming large, attack coach Brian Smith said: "We've talked out philosophical differences and are on a common path.

"We are a united ship. There are no issues there whatsoever."

Forwards specialist John Wells has come in for particular flak after a defeat by Australia and a lacklustre win over Argentina, but scrum coach Graham Rowntree insisted his colleague was fully behind the team's approach.

"I'm sick of hearing about Wellsy and about this difference of opinion he is supposed to have on his view of the game," explained Rowntree.

"He is one of the best practitioners around in forward play and he wants us to win."

Former England star Josh Lewsey is far from convinced that the coaching set-up, which also includes defence specialist Mike Ford, is on the right path.

England are the best resourced and biggest union in the world yet Wales have greater playing depth and coaches

Former England star Josh Lewsey

"Just look at what London Irish have done since Brian Smith left and he didn't achieve anything at Test level when he played, Mike Ford didn't win anything, while John Wells never played international rugby," the 2003 World Cup winner told the Evening Standard newspaper.

"Wells' achievements as a coach are terrible and what justifies these people keeping their jobs?

"Yes, Wells and Ford helped England to reach the World Cup final in 2007 but I would counter that it didn't have anything to do with them because the players took charge and decided how we were going to play.

"England are the best resourced and biggest union in the world, yet Wales have greater playing depth and coaches."

England's autumn campaign has seen them suffer a 19-8 defeat by Australia before last weekend's 16-9 win over Argentina.

But it has been the style of play, rather than the results, which have incensed England's critics, with a reliance on kicking and just one try scored in two games, although injuries have decimated Johnson's options.

Smith was added to the England coaching team in July last year after establishing a reputation for producing exciting teams with a running mentality, notably with London Irish.

But England's stodgy style against Australia and Argentina have led to questions over whether Smith's instincts are in direct conflict with the approach favoured by forwards coach Wells, a former Leicester team-mate of Johnson.


Smith, asked whether England's player have been receiving mixed messages, was adamant that the coaches were happy to work together.

"On the coaching team, we have all got each others' backs," he said. "Yes, you have to make compromises along the way but, from my perspective, they are only small adjustments.

"I am very happy with the working relationship with Wellsy and the other boys as well."

Rowntree said Wells was being unfairly singled out for England's problems over the autumn.

"We will take the criticism but some of the comments about that coach (Wells) in particular are uncalled for," said Rowntree.

"I have seen a lot of coaches but he is one of the best practitioners around in attention to detail and in making decisions.

"He is getting fingered for a lot of things and it is wrong."

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