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Rugby Union: Woodward got it right dealing with the players'egos.

We appear to be in the middle of a period of players speaking out about coaches and I think we'll see more and more of it as time goes on. Here in Wales there's been Gareth Thomas' thoughts on Mike Ruddock which have been illuminating rather than particularly shocking.

In England though there has been the far sterner appraisals of Brian Ashton by Lawrence Dallaglio and Mike Catt.

Rugby has not yet got to the stage of football whereby coaches are sacked quickly if results don't go their way.

And so, if there is discontent in any camp in rugby, it can fester for long periods.

But there are two sides to stories like this and it is all too easy to condemn coaches.

To deal with the egos of modern changing rooms cannot be easy and I think that is where Sir Clive Woodward got it right.

Woodward was single-minded and knew what he wanted, but in his tenure as England coach he always made big play of the fact that he wanted regular dialogue with players.

He wanted them to come to him each and every time with any problems they had and his achievement was to listen, take ideas on board and adapt.

Whether Ashton or Mike Ruddock for that matter did likewise I don't know, but in both cases they seemed to have coaches working alongside them with different views on the game.

The one thing I would say in Dallaglio's case is that he was not being picked by Ashton during the World Cup and, whether he admits it or not, that will have had an effect on his views.

There isn't a player who has ever laced up a pair of boots who has time for a coach who doesn't pick him, end of story.

For me, all this just goes to show that some players would rather work under coaches who lay the law down on all but the most trivial issues.

Ruddock delegated, Ashton wanted his guys to express themselves like they had never done before.

In both situations it led to dissatisfaction in the ranks and the irony seems to be that the more autonomy you bestow on players the greater risk there is of upsetting them.

The EDF Energy Cup is showing signs of early promise but it still needs the English teams to grab hold of it by the scruff of the neck.

The crowd at the Bristol v Scarlets game yesterday surprised me - 10,000 or so - and it shows that there is a huge appetite both sides of the Severn Bridge for Anglo-Welsh fixtures.

Furthermore, the Bath v Leicester game was extremely competitive with Bath winning 20-14 and I think that group, which also includes the Blues and Sale, could be very interesting now.

The Blues were impressive for 40 minutes on Friday but I think they are going to face an avalanche from the Tigers at Welford Road next Saturday.

How they cope with that will tell us far more about whether their improvement is one of genuine substance.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 29, 2007
Words:513
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