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Gareth Southgate: How the England football manager is learning lessons from his rugby counterparts

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Earlier this month, Gareth Southgate spent time with the England rugby league team to exchange knowledge and ideas with head coach Shaun Wane; it is not the first time the England football manager has collaborated with his opposite numbers in the oval-ball codes

Last Updated: 26/04/22 6:44am

Gareth Southgate with then-England rugby union defence coach Paul Gustard at a training session in 2017

There is an old saying that football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, while rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen. Yet one of the ultimate gentlemen of the round-ball code has found there is plenty to learn from their oval-ball counterparts.

Like many coaches of his generation across various sports, England manager Gareth Southgate has often sought knowledge from other spheres to both improve himself and find different ways of doing things.

For instance, just a couple months after being appointed to his current role on a permanent basis, the former defender was in camp with the England rugby union squad as they prepared for the 2017 Six Nations and found plenty he could transfer across.

“I think you’re always looking for new ideas,” Southgate told Sky Sports News at the time.

“You go away with loads of ideas and things you want to implement. It is great to be alongside people who experience the same sort of scenarios you’re in.

“There is a lot more set-play work, so the detail of individual coaching is very interesting for us because it is something we’re looking at in football.”

Southgate has met to exchange ideas with opposite number Eddie Jones several times since then and earlier this month was crossing rugby’s divide as well by joining England head coach Shaun Wane at an indoor session for his Rugby League World Cup train-on squad.

The 51-year-old was one of the first to arrive and the last to leave as he spent time talking with Wane, England Knights head coach Paul Anderson and the rest of the support staff, along with sitting in on the presentation the former Wigan Warriors boss gave to his players.

It was a typically at-times brutal assessment for his players from a man who could well be described as the no-nonsense Northerner’s no-nonsense Northerner, but one which Southgate took plenty from – much to the delight of the three-time Super League Grand Final-winning coach.

“The meeting he came to was very harsh, straight-forward and no nonsense, and he really loved how simple it was and how the players had no other way of leaving that meeting without understanding what we expected,” Wane said.

“He sent me a long message the day after which was really impressive about what he got from the meeting and if a guy who is not really a rugby league man got that, it shows the players got the message. I was very, very pleased with how he found it.

He sent me a long message the day after which was really impressive about what he got from the meeting and if a guy who is not really a rugby league man got that, it shows the players got the message.

England RL head coach Shaun Wane on Gareth Southgate

“He had a lot of questions, and I can see why he’s such a successful manager. His thirst for learning is very much like mine and Paul’s, he wants to improve, and it was very enjoyable.”

It has been a busy time for Southgate away from England confirming their place at the World Cup in Qatar later this year and this summer’s Nations League games, with him joining Gallagher Premiership champions Harlequins ahead of their recent European match against Montpellier.

One person who he left an impression on was Quins assistant Adam Jones, even if the gregarious former Wales international prop and the man whose nice-guy reputation was underlined by the fact he was only sent off once in a 500-game-plus playing career spent mainly in defence might not seem an obvious match.

“It was great listening to some of his thoughts,” Jones said. “He was good, a lovely fella – probably not as tall as I thought he was going to be!

The impression we got was that he was here to learn off us as much as we were to learn from him.

Harlequins coach Adam Jones on Gareth Southgate

“He was very softly spoken. He knew rugby and understood it.

“The impression we got was that he was here to learn off us as much as we were to learn from him. Probably shows how far we’ve come as an organisation.”

Wane has plans to collaborate further with Southgate as England’s rugby league team prepare for this year’s postponed World Cup, which takes place on these shores in October and November.

RLWC2021 concluding just two days before England’s footballers kick off their campaign against Iran over 4,000 miles away in Qatar means he would have to miss the final should the hosts’ side make it the decider in Manchester, but Wane is in no doubt both parties will have found whatever time they can spend exchanging ideas beneficial.

Gareth Southgate says England will expect to finish top of the group stages after his team drew Iran and the USA in the World Cup draw, as well as one of Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.

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Gareth Southgate says England will expect to finish top of the group stages after his team drew Iran and the USA in the World Cup draw, as well as one of Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.

Gareth Southgate says England will expect to finish top of the group stages after his team drew Iran and the USA in the World Cup draw, as well as one of Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.

“He loves league, he loves his sport and he spoke very well to the players,” Wane said.

“It’s always a good message for the players to hear about another sport, another business, new ideas and how we can do things better.

“I learned a lot from being with Gareth, and he said he learned a lot from being with us.”





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