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Brian Ashton Article..The Telegraph

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    Brian Ashton Article..The Telegraph

    <h1>Ireland experience taught me valuable lessons, says Ashton</h1><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

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    Nine years is a long time and now Brian Ashton can say: “I’m just the coach of
    a side coming to play Ireland in Dublin.” This week, though, will be the
    first time he has returned to the land where he used to be employed, as the
    head coach of a country that every other nation in the sporting world loves
    to beat.

    Ashton will admit that his acceptance of the Ireland coaching role in 1997, on
    a six-year contract that ended in 1998 after 13 months, was a mistake. “The
    most important lesson I learnt was that coaching at club level and
    international level are two entirely different things,” he said at the
    University of Bath yesterday. “You need a totally different approach.”

    He had come from Bath, a club that had set the standard both in England and
    for England for the previous decade, to an Ireland struggling to find out
    what professional rugby meant. He left having helped to convince the Irish
    RFU of the need for central contracts, for appropriate organisation at
    provincial level and the need among the players for an entirely new
    mentality in their understanding of professional sport.

    “I’m infinitely better prepared for this job as a result,” Ashton said, “and
    I’m also that much older and, I hope, a bit wiser.”
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    As Ireland coach, he prepared a side to play England only once, at Lansdowne
    Road on February 15, 1997, and the result was a 46-6 win for the visiting
    team and six tries scored against a porous defence.

    The boot, it is safe to say, is now on the other foot since Ireland have won
    the past three encounters between the countries, twice by six points and
    last year by four points.

    Not that Ashton was involved in any of those games and he does not acknowledge
    a different dimension to Saturday’s RBS Six Nations Championship game at
    Croke Park as a result of his experience with Ireland. “That’s never crossed
    my mind,” he said.

    He has concentrated on preparing England in the best manner his restricted
    circumstances allow: much has been achieved in organisational terms over the
    past two days, but the players have worked indoors at walking pace while
    those involved in Guinness Premiership games last weekend have recovered.
    Only today will the squad practise at speed and tomorrow they fly to Dublin.

    “The players knew what this week would be like but we won’t know until 5.30 on
    Saturday whether there is a gap that we have to make up on Ireland,” Ashton
    said. “We got caught in a one-dimensional game last time out, against Italy,
    which is not what we intended but that’s the way games sometimes go.

    “The players en bloc were so disappointed with that performance — and we did
    win, in case anyone has forgotten — and they know they have to step up two
    or three gears. We won’t get away with another performance like that against
    Ireland. We need to put together a game which will challenge the Irish
    defence and will cope with the Irish offence.”