Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Primed for Battle after Soldier's Tale

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Primed for Battle after Soldier's Tale

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Palmer

England star on the motivational speech delivered to team [bar] ENTIMENT was the main absentee when Stuart Lancaster named his squad for the Scotland game. Many experienced players have been overlooked in favour of a youthful group with an average age of 25. At 32 I'm the second oldest -- Lee Mears pips me by three weeks -- but I've been around the longest. Owen Farrell was only nine when I won my first cap in 2001.

With so many fresh faces, as well as a new coaching team, it has been easy to put World Cup disappointments behind us. We are a completely new team, with no hang-ups and are free from the heavy shadow of the events in New Zealand.

Last week our training camp was in Leeds, which makes a change from Portugal where we have been for the past couple of seasons. The different location was to allow us to acclimatise to the cold wet weather we can expect in Edinburgh although I think Lanny (Stuart) just wanted to spend more time with his family, who live in Leeds! When Brian Ashton was in charge he based us in Bath, where coincidentally he happened to live.

We have worked hard to develop our culture and identity this week, with Lanny organising dinners out with guest speakers, most of whom had been involved in winning teams in other sports. On Wednesday evening we were addressed by Leeds rugby league captain Kevin Sinfield and Hugh Morris, who has overseen the rise of the English cricket team.

On Thursday we heard from Great Britain rugby league captain Jamie Peacock, Manchester United's Gary Neville and former soldier Simon Brown, who was severely wounded in Iraq. The three general themes were: ? good leaders are needed everywhere ? teams need to be self-disciplining ? will to win, lack of complacency and the desire to continually improve are the most important individual characteristics.

It was fascinating to hear their views.

Gary was very self-deprecating, suggesting his achievements were down to hard work rather than talent. …

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