Eng­land get strength from ‘most

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup -

coach, John Mitchell, who is from New Zealand, was asked here in Tokyo what sur­prised him most about the Eng­land set-up. He said: “I thought it would be pre­dom­i­nantly pri­vate-school based. We’ve got a lovely mix.”

But, as ever, in English so­ci­ety, the pic­ture is more com­pli­cated than the head­line fig­ures sug­gest. At 11-15, more than 20 went to state schools, eight to fee-pay­ing es­tab­lish­ments and one each to an over­seas high school (Joe Cokanasiga) and a church school.

At 16-18, when schol­ar­ships kick in and the big-name pri­vate schools scoop up tal­ent, the num­bers change. For the A-level years, 16-18, the state school lead nar­rows to 16-15, when you in­clude fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion col­leges.

All the fol­low­ing Eng­land play­ers moved from state to pri­vate sec­tor at 16, in­clud­ing some who ex­em­plify the eth­nic di­ver­sity of the side (an­other tick in the credit col­umn for Jones’s squad): Billy Vu­nipola (who won a schol­ar­ship to Har­row), El­lis Genge, Jonathan Joseph, Mako Vu­nipola (Mill­field), Lewis Lud­lam, Maro Itoje (Har­row), Piers Fran­cis, Tom Curry (Oun­dle) and Kyle Sinck­ler – who started at Graveney Sec­ondary School (state) be­fore mov­ing to Ep­som Col­lege. Sinck­ler is held up as the star of so­cial mo­bil­ity in rugby but ob­jects to be­ing sketched as an es­capee from a tough life “on the streets”.

What this says is that the big pri­vate schools have ex­ten­sive tal­ent scout­ing net­works. Curry, who has been su­perb at this World Cup, came through Bishop He­ber High School (state) in Mal­pas, Cheshire, be­fore go­ing on to Oun­dle, where the sports fa­cil­i­ties in­clude a six-lane athletics track and 20 ten­nis courts.

From there the road took these Eng­land play­ers into Pre­mier­ship club academies and on, to the Eng­land set-up. Again, though, there is a mix of ed­u­ca­tional routes. Ben Youngs switched from pri­vate to state, as did Ge­orge Ford. Itoje moved to Har­row from St Ge­orge’s School in Harp­en­den, a high­pro­file state es­tab­lish­ment which Ford, Owen Far­rell and Jack Sin­gle­ton also at­tended.

Far­rell, the Eng­land captain, is the an­tithe­sis of the older, Rf­u­favoured “of­fi­cer-class” leader, and is uni­ver­sally ad­mired and re­spected by an Eng­land side who come over as class­less. Eth­nic di­ver­sity is also a fac­tor, in a coun­try where, as the Elit­ist Bri­tain 2019 re­port noted: “An Old Eto­nian has won a medal in ‘sit­ting down’ sports at every Olympic Games since 1992.”

“I think it def­i­nitely helps,” Manu Tuilagi says. “There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent back­grounds in the team. There’s def­i­nitely a feel­ing in the team that it doesn’t mat­ter where you are from. For me it shouldn’t be any dif­fer­ent in sport or any­where else as long as you have the same goal and every­one in the team does his job.”

Itoje says: “This is prob­a­bly the most di­verse Eng­land squad that there’s ever been, in terms of peo­ple com­ing from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and dif­fer­ent races.

All for one: Eng­land do a lap of hon­our af­ter their semi-fi­nal vic­tory over New Zealand

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