England’s new attacking coach Martin Gleeson believes he can emulate his friend Shaun Edwards and make a significant difference at the top level of the International Rugby Federation in the next two years leading up to the World Cup rugby 2023.
The former rugby league center, who represented Great Britain 20 times and won the Super League title twice as a player, had only spent two years in union at Wasps before moving to accepting Eddie Jones’ offer to join the national setup, but is confident he can help inject a little more excitement and precision into England’s attacking game.
Born in Wigan, Gleeson, 41, was on his way to Edwards’ house to study game tapes and analyze ways to beat defenses. He now hopes to help England in their attempt to thwart, among other things, a French defense now mobilized by the consistently successful Edwards.
“Shaun Edwards was a big influence on my coming to rugby union,” Gleeson said as England wrapped up a short training camp in Teddington. “When he was the Wales coach I would go see him all year round and he would ask me about defenses when I was still in the league.
“I would go to his place and we would have good conversations. It really started to pique my interest in the game. Shaun is obviously someone who has played and been successful in Wigan, where I come from. I saw him grow up as a child. He had a great influence.
After watching England players closely over the past two days, Gleeson’s goal is to help them improve their score rate against the better opponents following the departure of his predecessor, Simon Amor.
“I like to play in a way that creates opportunities and seizes most of them,” confirmed Gleeson. “Working in larger channels, creating opportunities on the edges and finishing them … I think that’s where I can really work with the guys on this team, with the quality that they have, and give them different things that they might not have seen before.Just the type of running stuff and breaking down defenses.
“I would like England to play with skill, pace and power. England are always good on set pieces and on defense so we want to add to that with our attacking play. We have quality offensive players, so it’s about giving guys the confidence and the know-how to thrive on the big stage. You have to play in a way that suits the players you have. You can’t try to play one way when you have players more suited to other things.
Gleeson can also offer a useful perspective if and when hard times come, having had to build a coaching career following several off-court issues including a suspension for breaking the betting rules in 2004 and a doping ban. while he was a Hull FC player. in 2011. Gleeson and others tested positive for a banned stimulant in an energy supplement that they said had been verified and approved for use by the club.
A number of the Premiership players involved in the British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa are set to resume action this weekend after satisfying authorities that they have had sufficient rest and recovery. Bristol’s Kyle Sinckler is among those who have asked for permission to resume as soon as possible with Bears rugby manager Pat Lam, stressing that no player would be under pressure to return prematurely.
“The only thing I would never do is force a player to play rugby that he doesn’t want to play because he needs to rest,” said Lam, whose host is Bath at Ashton Gate Friday night. “It depends on the individual.