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Paul Gustard seeks out other sports in order to improve England's defence

Published 03/10/2016

Defence coach Paul Gustard believes judo techniques could help England's defence.
Defence coach Paul Gustard believes judo techniques could help England's defence.

Paul Gustard spent last summer broadening his coaching horizons as he sought to dispel the gloom that descended after England's porous display in the final Test against Australia.

A 3-0 whitewash was sealed by a roller coaster 44-40 victory in Sydney and, although it delivered the final act in a remarkable season, Gustard was left feeling "dark" at seeing the Grand Slam champions' line breached five times.

Upon reviewing the series and identifying various flaws, head coach Eddie Jones revised his view of the performances and demanded that his assistants improve by spending time outside of rugby to expand their skills.

"We didn't coach well enough on tour, so our staff have been working really hard investigating other sports," Jones said.

Gustard visited New Zealand Warriors, Wigan and Warrington rugby league clubs and also spent time with British judo, his focus sharpened by England's frailty at the end of a long season that began with the World Cup.

"I worked with Eddie before and knew he would be frank. I don't mind that. I don't want to be an ordinary coach, I want to be the best coach I can be," the defence coach said.

"In the third Test we were off the pace - I was pretty dark after the game. I felt we didn't give a true representation of ourselves.

"I was dark immediately. It's a long time (since) I've been involved in a team that has conceded that many tries in a game.

"Although we got lucky on occasion in the second Test, it was through sheer fight, determination and willingness to defend our line that we gave a true representation of what England rugby is about. The third Test wasn't that.

"We made soft errors and bad decisions off the ball. We put ourselves in compromised positions and against a good team we got burnt and you can't afford to do that."

England's next assignment is an autumn series at Twickenham comprising of fixtures against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia and Gustard is seeking perfection.

"My aim going into a game is not to concede any tries or any points. That's the aim, the vision, the dream. The reality doesn't always work out like that," Gustard said.

"We averaged conceding 1.7 tries per game over the summer series, which isn't good enough. I know that, the boys know that.

"We went from conceding four tries in the Six Nations to conceding 10 tries in the summer. We conceded some pretty soft scores but we still conceded them.

"We know we need to bring that down and we believe we can do so with what we've been working on."

British judo coaches JP Bell and Kate Howey conducted Monday's training session in Brighton as players practised skills that England believe might prove useful at the breakdown and in the tackle.

"We think there are certain techniques that are transferable to rugby," Gustard said.

"There's natural crossover whenever there is contact, body v body, so areas in and around the tackle, mauling, grappling skills, not just in body manipulation but in terms of low body positions.

"Judo is very flexible. It is an area of the game we think we can make particularly big strides in.

"George Ford was outstanding at it, it must be those long levers he has. Technically he was very good."

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