Former Fylde RFC coach Mark Nelson says young players need to have experience of playing abroad to broaden their rugby experience if England are to catch up with the rest of the world and raise standards.
And the same goes for coaches, says Nelson, who runs the Lancashire County side and is a consultant at Rochdale Rugby Club.
He was reacting to the appointment of Eddie Jones as England coach. Nelson described the decision to appoint Jones as a “sad, sad day for English rugby coaching, but a correct decision”.
He continued: “It has taken 20 years, but the decisionto stick with clubs and not to implement central contracts for players and create regional sides has finally come home to roost.
“I was coaching the North when the game went professional, and almost immediately the counties and divisions disappeared and the Premiership was born.
“The divisions could have toured overseas and been England’s representatives in Europe. The divisions could have received touring sides.
“In the two seasons I coached the North, we played New Zealand, Queensland, Western Samoa, South Africa A and Argentina.
“I cannot help thinking if current England players had had that kind of exposure to southern hemisphere opponents they would have been in a far better place.
“The game in England needs to send young players and coaches overseas to develop their skills in other cultures and environments, gaining real experience. You only have to watch Super Rugby to see it has taken the game forward.
“I’m not sure the club game in England is any further forward than the time I coached the backs at Sale Sharks under Philippe St Andre, winning the Premiership.”
Jones’ sat alongside RFU chairman and Fylde RFC great Bill Beaumont at a Twickenham press conference after being confirmed in his new role today.
Nelson added: “If you look at Mr Jones’ CV, no English coach has remotely that amount of experience because we don’t promote the opportunity.
“Even at National league club level ,when I played at Fylde, Vale of Lune and Lancashire, we played Welsh, Scottish, Irish, French, even South African sides.
“Now the only experience National One and National Two players get is to play more or less the same group of teams like Groundhog Day. There’s not even a cup.
“Let’s get a far broader experience into the English game, not just our myopic leagues.”