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Leeds Rhinos build up to the Carnegie World Club Challenge will include spending time with Rugby Union World Champions England. England RU head coach Andy Robinson told the England squad this week about his plans for them to train with Leeds Rhinos, the Rugby League Super League champions, next month. He is planning his cross code initiative with the Rhinos head coach, Tony Smith. Both codes hope to benefit from each others? tactics and skills. Robinson met with Smith last week in Leeds, to fine tune their plans for the three day training session set for mid January. The idea was hatched by England much earlier this year and is seen as one of several lateral steps planned for 2005. The head coach anticipates England will greatly benefit from the trip north.
??Any team involved in professional sport can learn from other sports. These are the little things that make a difference. Continually taking the players out of their comfort zone is no bad thing and it applies pressure in different ways."
Robinson had some experiences with League earlier in his career, allowing him to appreciate how the other code could be beneficial for the England squad's training. One of his last games played as Bath captain before becoming Bath coach was the Cross Code Challenge. His club took on Wigan RL in two games in 1996, who also included Joe Lydon, currently one of his England assistant coaches. Lydon agrees with Robinson that there is always something to be gained from examining other sports.
??You study anything you think could give you new ideas and if you don't, you'll be left behind. When I was England Sevens coach in recent years I looked closely at basketball, as there are a lot of similarities in offence and defence with Sevens. League is a great sport. In many ways it's a simpler game than union, with no scrummaging time or line out but our players will learn from it."
By choosing Leeds Rhinos, England will be training with the current league champions, a title they won in October for the first time in 32 years. Commenting on the new association with England, Head Coach Tony Smith said; ??I have met with Andy on a couple of occasions already. We have a lot in common and a great deal to gain from establishing a good relationship. With our respective coaching teams we are always looking for improvement and I believe we can do that through our association which hopefully will become an ongoing one.
??I have been highly impressed by Andy and his coaching methods in our initial discussions and we have already developed a mutual respect for each other," added Smith.
England will use the training in Leeds as part of their preparation for their first RBS 6 Nations game against Wales on 5th February in Cardiff. Leeds Rhinos, as the Champions of Super League, take on the Australian NRL Champions, Canterbury Bulldogs, one day earlier on 4th February at Elland Road in the Carnegie World Club Challenge. Smith is looking to emulate England and add the World title to the Rhinos honours.
??England have proved that they are world leaders and we want to earn a similar tag as them. We can learn from their experience and use that ourselves," said Smith.
For Robinson and his England squad, their 2003 World Cup victory has long since been consigned to the archives. Instead, as they move into this next era for England rugby, the RBS 6 Nations Championship is firmly in their sights. Their first training sessions of 2005 as a squad begin with the Rhinos. Said Robinson: ??It's all about creating a different environment. Their rules are a bit different, there's more space and security of possession for them but when you strip it all down it's still rugby - union or league."