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Elderly England full of Les Bleus
http://www.e-sports.com/articles/2408/1/Elderly-England-full-of-Les-Bleus/Page1.html
Alex O'Loughlin
Alex O'Loughlin is 18-years old and a first year sports journalist at Southampton Solent. He has a lover for all sports, but focuses mainly on football and rugby union.  
By Alex O'Loughlin
Published on 10/20/2011
 
You don't have to ponder too long as to why England failed at the World Cup, because the answers are still in New Zealand readying themselves for semi-final encounters.

The RUF needs a spring cleaning.

It seems like yesterday that Jonny WIlkinson's left boot drop-goal brought home the World Cup. But, but the fact of the matter is that was eight years ago, and not only have we entered a new decade, we've entered a new game of rugby union, with England still lagging behind in the happy, but ultimately distant past.

While Wales hasn't reached a World Cup semifinal since 1987, they have embraced the philosophy of picking youth over experience, which has paid dividends, with six of their starting 15 not even being born back in '87. The likes of Sam Warburton (captain aged just 22) and George North (the youngest ever player to play for Wales in a semifinal) have added creativity and a fresh, 21st century look to the Welsh side.

This fielding of talented youth over household names isn't unique to Warren Gatland's side, with Australia adopting a similar approach to their side. The Aussies have introduced names like Kurtley Beale, Will Genia, James O'Connor and David Pocock; all aged between 21 and 23. The well known saying of "you don't win anything with kids" has been proved very much wrong.

South Africa isn't exactly youthful you might say, and you are correct. They fielded their most experienced side ever in the quarterfinals, with 836 international caps in their starting 15 alone. But, and it is a big but, the fact of the matter is that they lost that game, and who to? The youthful Australia. Point proved? Not quite.

Under the excellent guidance of the now Sir Clive Woodward, England was ahead of the game in 2003, but in the eight years since then the 2007 World Cup, they have fizzled out into mediocrity.

Seven of the players who started the quarterfinal against France for England were aged over 30, and none of them you could deem irreplaceable. Wilkinson, for example, had a dismal World Cup, but the memories of that drop-goal, and the player he used to be, seemed to guarantee his starting place, while the eager Toby Flood stood by on the sidelines.

Stand-in captain Mike Tindall was exposed for the ageing centre he now is, with the rookie Manu Tuilagi reflecting what a modern day centre should consist of: pace, power and the ability to get over the gain line.

Drawing comparisons between Wales and England again, a fine example is Rhys Priestland, Wales' controlling No. 10, who has propelled his side to where they are now in the competition. Although England managed the quarterfinals, too, the manner of performances was disparaging and devoid of ideas. Could this have been different with the youth and eagerness which could have been provided by Flood.

Modern day rugby union has progressed from the days of strong, physical forwards and quick, nimble backs. Although those attributes are still required, forwards are now needed to be good ball-carriers, capable of breaking lines and gaining yards, as well as still competing at the ruck.

As for the backs, when talking about positions such as inside and outside centre, they are needed to be far more combative, with wingers and runners of the ball having to be able to try different angles and moves.

None of these above characteristics could be found in England, and pointing the finger at Martin Johnson is both naive and done so without thought. The problem lies with the RFU itself, with a "spring cleaning" needed from top to bottom.

World Cup winning coach with the Springboks Jake White has hinted at an interest, and that would be an appointment sure to propel lacklustre England back into the elite of rugby union.