Sir Clive Woodward berates England for ‘nonsense’ celebrations

Jared Wright
Ben Earl of England celebrates a turn over during the 2024 Guinness 6 Nations match England vs Wales at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, United Kingdom

Ben Earl of England celebrates a turn over during the 2024 Guinness 6 Nations match England vs Wales at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, United Kingdom

England players’ celebrations during matches have again come under fire, with former head coach Sir Clive Woodward slamming Steve Borthwick’s side.

Woodward singled out forwards Ben Earl and Maro Itoje for celebrating “meaningless” penalties and turnovers and highlighted one incident in particular during the Six Nations defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield.

The ex-England coach says he would outlaw the needless celebrations.

Missed opportunity because of the celebrations

“This says so much about England’s mindset. Their players – Ben Earl and Maro Itoje in particular – celebrating winning penalties or turnovers isn’t anything new. It’s been happening for a while,” Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column.

He added that he “would not allow it” and highlighted an incident where England missed an opportunity after a scrum penalty inside their own half when Borthwick’s side were 7-0 up.

“Earl had the ball in his hands but turned his back on the opposition and started celebrating the penalty,” he added.

“All the backs also ran in and celebrated like they had just won the World Cup! Why was Earl not looking to tap and go? He should have been looking to keep Scotland under pressure.

“The celebrating of penalties is plain stupid. With the Scottish scrum on the floor, Earl had a great opportunity to take a quick penalty and run into space. What did he and England do instead? They celebrated needlessly, slowed the game right now, and kicked for a line-out.”

It is not the first time that England players have come under scrutiny for their over-the-top celebrations – in fact, Woodward has criticised them in the past as well – and the former England boss believes that it has no influence on the opposition.

“If England think these celebrations have a psychological impact on the opposition they are living in dreamland. I would really urge Borthwick to tell Earl and co. to knock this nonsense on the head,” he concluded.

Ex-England international calls for Steve Borthwick’s and four players’ heads

Maro Itoje celebrating his team’s achievements

Itoje and Earl have addressed the criticism in the past as well.

“When there is a celebration of a small moment or small victory within the game it almost always has nothing to do with the opposition,” Itoje said back in 2020.

“The opposition doesn’t cross my mind. I try as much as possible not to waste any energy on the opposition. My energy is towards my team, it is to celebrate my teammate doing something remarkable, it is to celebrate my teammate doing something that we are trying to encourage.”

Ben Earl “will continue to do it”

Earl’s celebrations came under fire during the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and following the tournament, he explained that he had no plans of stopping them anytime soon.

“I thought it was a really crucial part of what Saracens were when we were at our most successful,” Earl said on the The Big Jim Show last December.

“But personally, for me, it’s a really good way of keeping myself engaged in games. A hard game of rugby these days is about 37 minutes. That’s 37 minutes of effort and the rest is rest time, ball’s not in play. So moments like that keep me engaged.”

He added: “If an opponent sees me – we have had a long defensive set and we get a turnover – and we are celebrating, it just shows that we have got so much more in us, and we do… If I’m showing others that I’m ready to go, I’m showing the opposition that I’m ready to go; that can only be a good thing for the team.

“I’ve said this to a few people who have asked me about it, I will continue to do it and if a teammate goes to me ‘Ben, I really don’t like it, it really off-puts me,’ I’ll stop in a heartbeat and that’s fine. But until that point, I’ll continue to do it.”

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