Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Warming to Lessons in League

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Warming to Lessons in League

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK BALDWIN;MATT HUGHES

THE rugby player with one of the most famous names in sport today spelt out why England coach Andy Robinson is right to have initiated a cross-code training camp with Leeds Rhinos.

Liam Botham, son of England's greatest cricket all-rounder, Ian Botham, and now with the Rhinos after a decade playing with Newcastle and Cardiff, said rugby union had much to learn from the league game.

Botham said: "Since switching to league last year I have learned far more about the game of rugby as a whole. The skills and techniques involved in passing the ball and catching it, and in lines of running and breaking down defences, are far higher in league than in union.

"I had never been taught how to do these things so well before. I know there are other aspects to union, like scrums and line-outs, but in league, even the younger players have handling and passing skills that are greater than those you see in union.

"Someone like Jonny Wilkinson is so good because he spends hours and hours in practice off his own bat. In league, players put in that sort of time, in terms of basic skills, on a more regular basis."

Robinson, despite helping to coach England to their 2003 World Cup triumph, agrees with Botham's enthusiasm-for the league game. He is also dismissive of those union diehards who would still treat the 13a-side code as if it did not exist.

Asked if he realised that many of the greats of union history would be spinning in their graves at the news that England's national squad were sharing ideas and secrets with the country's leading league club, Robinson said: "Without wishing to be rude to their families, who cares?

"This training camp is not a gimmick. It is about both sets of players interchanging and moving forward.

"This is about rugby. It's not league or union, it's just rugby. And, in the time we have already spent together, it has been an awesome experience.

Players and coaches have got an awful lot out of it and both Leeds and ourselves intend this to be an ongoing relationship.

"I know from what they have already been saying that our players are going to go back to their clubs and their directors of rugby and enthuse about what they have learned and experienced here. …

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