Contracts a killer for England

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Published: Monday 17th November 2014 by The News Editor

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New Zealand World Cup winner Sean Fitzpatrick believes sides like England will continue to struggle against southern hemisphere teams until they tie players down to central contracts.

England’s hopes of winning the World Cup on home soil next year have been dented after they lost 31-28 to South Africa on Saturday, seven days after being beaten 24-21 by the All Blacks.

The Red Rose have won just once in their last 23 matches against New Zealand and South Africa, who both use central contracts and therefore enjoy greater control over their players’ schedules for club and country.

“It makes it very difficult for the northern hemisphere sides and even more so in the autumn,” said Fitzpatrick, who won the World Cup with New Zealand in 1987 and captained the team from 1992 to 1997.

“The All Blacks play 12 to 15 Test matches a year which means they’re together 20-odd weeks a year which makes them almost like a club team.

“That’s where the northern hemisphere teams are going to struggle against the southern hemisphere.”

Fitzpatrick also suggested it would be a “good idea” for the Rugby Football Union to buy every Aviva Premiership club if it meant central contracts could be introduced.

England’s disappointing start to their autumn campaign means Stuart Lancaster’s side have now lost their last five consecutive Tests.

Concerns grew after a particularly poor display against the Springboks on Saturday but Lancaster insisted his players have “development to do” and that there was no need to panic.

“I think they should be a bit harder on themselves in terms of what they’re saying publicly,” Fitzpatrick said.

“But in the context of where they were three years ago I think they’ve made huge strides.

“As fans here we want England to win and the nice thing is now people are expecting them to win – three years ago nobody expected them to win certain games.”

Fitzpatrick added: “It’s a good thing the fans are concerned. England are expected to win now and we were under the general belief England were going in the right direction.

“I still think they are but the fact the fans are upset is a healthy sign.”

England’s winless run against South Africa now stretches to 12 Test matches and the last time they tasted victory against the Boks at Twickenham was November 2006.

Fitzpatrick believes England’s losing streak is misleading but admits the recent setbacks do give the southern hemisphere giants a psychological boost ahead of the World Cup.

“I would be concerned in terms of the style of rugby England are playing,” Fitzpatrick said.

“But the five games they have lost are against the two best teams in the world – they need to take that into consideration in terms of what they’re doing.

“They’ll be hugely disappointed with their performance at the weekend against South Africa.

“They have a huge number of injuries but that was disappointing – of the two teams they just played I think they targeted South Africa as a team they wanted to beat.”

Fitzpatrick added: “I think it is important (beating England). It’s important for the All Blacks to know they can win at Twickenham.

“And the flip-side as well is South Africa winning again at Twickenham where they have such a good record.

Published: Monday 17th November 2014 by The News Editor

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