England rugby coach warns contact training 'will take time'

London (AFP) –


England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has warned it will take time for contact training to resume as rugby union tries to steer a course through the coronavirus crisis.

The spread of COVID-19 has brought the sport to a standstill, with the English rugby union predicting a huge financial hit if the autumn internationals are cancelled.

Proudfoot, who was behind the Springbok pack's World Cup final mauling of England in Japan last year, is currently in his native South Africa, where he has been in touch with the Red Rose squad via social media.

The lack of routine physical training in lockdown is a particular problem for forwards and Proudfoot, speaking via a conference call on Wednesday, said it would take time for players to regain match fitness.

World Rugby issued guidelines on Tuesday, saying that a return to full training would require "a reduction in personal social-distancing measures or a specific government exemption".

Proudfoot said strength and conditioning coaches had been in contact with players and clubs to formulate programmes tailored to individuals.

"Rather than a generic programme that most teams would follow, we've tried to look at the player from a holistic point of view -- where could we improve him in his home environment where we couldn't have improved him in camp?

"Contact training is something that is going to take a bit of time."

Proudfoot, who said the squad would rely on the Rugby Football Union for guidance, added: "Once we can start training in smaller groups and institute smaller group situations, things can start to change a little bit."

The former Scotland international said working with England veteran Australian head coach Eddie Jones had been an "eye-opener" and a marked change from his time under Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus.

"What's been very different for me is the way Eddie produces his system," added Proudfoot, with England top of the 2020 Six Nations table with one match to play.

"Where the Springboks really focused on what their model was, Eddie looks at the whole holistic process, really looks at his training methodology, how he prepares a team and how forensically he goes about it," he said.

"What has been an eye-opener for me is that I've had to learn and grow. In the South Africa environment a statement was 'execution above innovation'. Here it's 'execution through innovation'."