England's Rugby World Cup success rests on clear game plans, says Nick Easter
Last Updated: 19/02/19 4:06pm
Clear game plans are vital to success at Rugby World Cup tournaments, according to Sharks coach and former England international Nick Easter.
With 11 Rugby World Cup appearances spanning across three tournaments, the retired back-row forward is well-placed to look at what it takes to handle the sport's most unique and prized competition.
When it comes to tackling a tournament of a Rugby World Cup's magnitude, Easter told the Will Greenwood Rugby Podcast that successful handling of it stems from a key area.
"Have a clear plan," said Easter.
"In 2007 we lost to South Africa heavily in the group stages and that basically sparked a famous players meeting with the coaches about what our game plan was, what the clarity was over it and how it suited the players that you've got."
The former second and back-row forward went on and played six matches during that tournament. England, as many will remember, went on to meet South Africa again in the final at the Stade de France.
Four years later, Easter believes that the topic of game plans was another telling factor in England's tournament journey over in New Zealand.
"In 2011 we had a good game plan that won us the Six Nations and we'd done alright the year before as well in the autumns and winning on tour in Australia as well and it changed," noted the forward, who finished his international career with 54 caps.
"It changed for the World Cup and it didn't suit some of the players that we had. When that happens and players aren't playing to the best of their ability because they're not allowed to play to their strengths it affects the squad," reflected Easter.
"You start doubting the game plan and as soon as that element of doubt comes in, against top-class international teams, they'll sniff it and that's it, its game over. But I don't see that happening with England [now]."
The current England squad have started the 2019 Six Nations Championship with two impressive performances, performances that Easter thinks are a function of two factors.
"I think they're clear on the game plan, Eddie has kept them fresh and I think that's the biggest difference that you've seen between this year and last year," said Easter.
"Last year they were knackered, Eddie has kept them fresh. I was speaking to a number of England players and they said that the camp in Portugal was the easiest camp that they've had under Eddie by miles.
"So he probably tested them out last year, pushing them to the brink and seeing what he could get, knowing full well that this is the big year."'
In this 'big year' all roads lead to Japan where England are in Pool C alongside France, Argentina, USA and Tonga.
As we all know, Rugby World Cup glory can only arrive if a side is able to win seven consecutive matches in an eight-week period. It's a tough ask and one that Easter highlights as presenting a unique challenge.
"In World Cups you are only going to play well for maybe two games, really. The other games you've just got to know how to win," commented Easter.
"If you look at England in 2003, they never really played as well as they did in the previous year but they knew that they could beat every, single nation that they came up against and they found a way to beat them.
"At the moment England are looking good but we'll see I think it will be a very, very interesting World Cup."
For now all thoughts of Japan must be put on hold as the Six Nations Championship returns with Jones' side facing Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.