Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) director of performance rugby Conor O’Shea says there is some “incredibly exciting potential beginning to bubble up again” in England’s youth sides; Head coach Eddie Jones takes his senior side to World Cup in 2023 after disappointing Six Nations this year
By James Simpson
Last Updated: 20/09/21 11:09pm
Conor O’Shea says England’s young players have “incredibly exciting” potential and will inject energy into Eddie Jones’ 2023 World Cup squad.
Earlier this month, Jones said he needed to refresh the team after a major reshuffle in the backroom staff.
That was after England finished in a disappointing fifth place in the Six Nations earlier this year, winning just two of their five games – against Italy and France.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) director of performance rugby O’Shea believes there is enough talent in the youth setup to provide the spark England need moving forward.
“We’ve got an outstanding group of players that will go to 2023 when they are all back and they are fit together in a normal environment,” O’Shea told Sky Sports.
“Hopefully some of last year’s under-20s can come and imbue an energy and help support Eddie leading into that but then I think beyond that and looking at the work that’s been done by the academies, by the pathway coaches at the moment, I just see – I think everyone is seeing some incredibly exciting potential beginning to bubble up again.
“Not just average players, pretty special players.”
While the RFU said it retained full support of Jones after England’s poor performance at senior level, they had no such issues at the 2021 Six Nations Under 20s Championship, where England won all five games on the way to a dominant win.
O’Shea said Jones should not have been to blame for his senior squad selection and not offering opportunities to younger players, as the coronavirus pandemic was a major factor.
“No, it’s not [fair to criticise him],” he said. “A lot of talk last year in terms of selection and ability to bounce outside of the norm given what was going on [the pandemic] was just not there.
“The ability to integrate people within an environment – you weren’t able to, whether it be having dinner together, breakfast together. You’re in your rooms all the time which is a very strange environment.
“So, I’m looking forward.
“I think it will be a really exciting group of players that Eddie pulls together this year and hopefully we will support him any way we can.
“But our focus now is making sure we have a succession and pipeline and players pushing all the time because that will keep every player honest.”
Speaking as the RFU published its pathway and development framework designed to ensure long-term success of senior England teams, O’Shea said he is sure the future is bright.
He said: “I think we’ve got a very special group of players and the biggest thing we can provide is support in the next two years leading into 2023, and support to Simon Middleton and the Red Roses leading into 2022 in New Zealand [the Women’s Rugby World Cup].
“Hopefully those teams in 2022 and 2023 can inspire the next generation and when you look at the talent from last year – the 17-20-year-old age group, that under-20 team specifically last year -there’s a lot of talent coming through which will push some of the older players on.”