Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mr Happy Moves in with a Masterplan

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mr Happy Moves in with a Masterplan

Article excerpt

Byline: By Andrew Baldock

Brian Ashton wants to put a smile back on the face of English international rugby following a prolonged spell scarred by crushing under-achievement.

The new England head coach will take charge of February's RBS 6 Nations Championship against Scotland at Twickenham.

England have lost eight of their last nine Tests ( a demoralising results sequence which cost predecessor Andy Robinson his job and saw them written off as serious 2007 World Cup contenders.

Ashton, though, is looking for his players to make a significant impact in both competitions as he embarks on the biggest job of his rugby life nearly four months after reaching his 60th birthday.

The Lancastrian has taken the reins with unequivocal backing from Rugby Football Union elite rugby director Rob Andrew, who spoke with him about coaching England within a day of Robinson departing Twickenham.

Andrew said there are currently no plans to appoint an England manager, a potential role that current Harlequins boss and ex-England No 8 Dean Richards had been linked with.

Ashton has 10 games to mould the world champions into shape before they launch their bid to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy in France next September.

He is a coach renowned for his ability to refresh, invigorate and empower players, and he does not intend departing from the basic rugby principles.

Ashton said: "It's about creating an atmosphere that the players want to come to and be involved in.

"What I need to make sure happens is we put in place a team that can handle any situation thrown at them. The key thing is to have flexibility of thought.

"I want to get the enjoyment back into playing the game ( I have very firm views on that ( and if the players enjoy it you get the best out of them.

"I have always enjoyed challenging players, and I want to see players out there literally playing with a smile on their faces."

Ashton's blueprint will be music to the ears of the suffering supporters.

England were booed off the pitch following their Twickenham defeats against Argentina and South Africa, and despite the relative shortage of matches before the World Cup kicks off, Ashton is in an upbeat mood. …

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