Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Can the 'wolf pack' founder lead England's hunt for a strong new identity?

Saracens defence specialist Paul Gustard is primed to join new head coach Eddie Jones' revamped England backroom staff.

Here, Press Association Sport's Nick Purewal considers whether the 'wolf pack' founder can transfer that hunting mentality to the Test arena.

What is the 'wolf pack'?

Gustard served Leicester, London Irish and Saracens with distinction as a gritty flanker, but despite making England's 1999 World Cup training squad he never won a full cap.

The sharp-focused back-rower quickly excelled in a move to coaching at the end of his playing days, and has proved central to Saracens' trophy-laden renaissance.

The 39-year-old christened Saracens' defence the 'wolf pack', challenging his players to hunt down opponents and creating a host of awards for rearguard prowess.

Saracens employ defence as another form of attack, forcing opponents into errors and seizing on them without mercy.

Gustard's creative thinking hit new heights when he took a wolf to a Saracens training session, just to take the defensive metaphor to the ultimate extreme.

What must England change to emulate Saracens' thrifty style?

At times under Stuart Lancaster England sought to emulate Saracens' approach, a move spearheaded by assistant coach Andy Farrell.

Farrell was doubtless keen to transfer some of his own success at Saracens to the Test arena, and at their best England were able to profit from that regimen.

Lancaster's tenure ended amid tactical and strategic confusion, so new boss Jones must lay down a clear approach for the future.

England's greatest change in order to ape Saracens would be to switch to an all-out blitz defence.

Does focusing on defence stunt attacking impetus?

Not necessarily. But that is the inherent risk.

Saracens have in the past suffered brickbats for lacking style, but their approach is certainly cut throat.

England can still maintain the attacking flair offered by the likes of Jonathan Joseph and George Ford - but marrying the two styles will be one of new boss Jones' toughest tasks.

Can the 'Wolfpack' mentality transform England's fortunes?

Not in isolation. The more menacing and exacting the defence the better, but New Zealand proved at the World Cup that only an all-court game is now enough for global success.

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph