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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Backs lack basic skills - Ashton
FIVE LIVE RUGBY SPECIAL
Brian Ashton
Five Live Sport
Tues 18 July, 2000-2100 BST
The Guinness Premiership is failing to equip players with the basic skills they need for international rugby, says England attack coach Brian Ashton.

"The players need to develop higher skill levels in all the core areas of back play - the running, handling and kicking skills," Ashton told Five Live.

"The technique does not stand up for a lot of players under the intense gaze of the international arena."

Former Bath coach Ashton joined the England coaching set-up in May.

The 59-year-old intends to work out a strategy for tackling the skills shortage with the Premiership's coaches.

It's been a long time since we had a natural outside centre playing for England - I think Mathew Tait can fit that bill

Brian Ashton

"It's an area we need to address - the technique has to stand up under intense pressure," he admitted.

"I'm not talking about a particular style of play here, I'm talking about improving skills under the severe pressure of the international arena, so that when the players get there they feel a little bit more comfortable than they seem to be at the moment."

The Rugby Football Union appointed a new England coaching team in May, with Ashton becoming attack coach and Mike Ford named as his defensive counterpart.

But the new team had an inauspicious start, with 34-3 and 43-18 defeats inflicted by Australia last month.

Yet Ashton says there are reasons to be positive, such as the potential of Newcastle back Mathew Tait.

Ashton says Tait could be the most natural English outside centre since Jeremy Guscott - even though the player was selected on the wing in the second Test against Australia.

"I see him as a 13, out and out," Ashton said.

"It's been a long time - probably since Jeremy Guscott played for England - that we've had a natural outside centre playing in the 13 jersey.

"I think Mathew Tait can fit that bill. But we've still got to remember he's relatively inexperienced and is only 20 years old.

"I certainly think he's got the potential. A lot depends on what happens to him during the early part of the season with Newcastle Falcons."

SEE ALSO
Australia 34-3 England
11 Jun 06 |  Internationals
Australia 43-18 England
17 Jun 06 |  Internationals
Ashton named England attack coach
25 May 06 |  Internationals


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