Mick Cleary is the lead rugby writer for the London Telegraph

Dai Young's statesmanlike address on Sunday evening may well go down as the moment that England's chances of beating the All Blacks took a sizeable upturn.

The Wasps director of rugby has lost his back-rower, Sam Jones, effectively for the season after he suffered a broken leg and ankle ligament damage at a judo session in England camp, and had ample cause to be incandescent. As befits a former Wales and Lions prop, Young can do nasty.

Instead, he was stoic. More importantly, he was conciliatory, visionary even. "It is not about us and them [the clubs and England], there cannot be a big brother in the relationship, no one is more important than the other and the last thing we want to do is knock a wedge between the national set-up and the clubs," he said. It was much-needed diplomacy.


Eddie Jones has received a barrage of complaints over his two-day camp, for the timing of it, for the intensity of it. Neither element stands much scrutiny. There is a 160-page document, signed off by every Premiership club, detailing all aspects of the club-country agreement. Dates. Player release. Money handed over from union to clubs. And what do you know, there is even mention of rugby in it. Blimey, next we will be saying that Jones's remit is to try to win the World Cup.

The hostile language that emerged last week, with Premier Rugby naively stating that there had been no understanding of Jones overseeing such a tough regime - as if! - was reminiscent in tone of the Clive Woodward era. Back then, there was a real divide between the two parties. Woodward had very little influence on his players at the clubs.

England won the 2003 World Cup in spite of the relationship, not because of it. That is why Woodward walked away in such high dudgeon the following year, berating his one-time paymasters for their lack of direct action in getting the clubs to look out for the national interest.

Any slippage back to those cat-calling times and Project England would be doomed. If England, or anyone, are to prevent the All Blacks from making it three World Cups in a row in Japan in 2019, then everything has to be spot on. The All Blacks are so far ahead, almost out of sight with their techno-flow style, Star Wars Rugby, that it will take a colossal concerted effort to deny them. And, in England's case, for that to happen there has to be harmony between club and country. All on the same page, all working to the same end, no conflicts of interest.

That is what Young was calling for, and that from a Welshman. (As an aside, you wonder increasingly why Young is not touted more forcibly as the successor to Warren Gatland when he steps aside in three years' time, a man proven at the coalface, shrewd, no nonsense, empathetic and as multilayered as his team.)

Young's rallying call has to carry the day when the sides get together in London for a meeting that was scheduled long ago and is not a knee-jerk response to last week's flare-up. In many ways the gathering has echoes of the system in New Zealand, where everything is funnelled to one end - the well-being and glory of the All Blacks.

And that is one good reason why New Zealand have become so pre-eminent. There are no such things there as conflicting ideologies. The union owns the product. Coaches coach according to the creed handed down by Steve Hansen through the Super Rugby franchises and into the provinces. The All Blacks intellectual property is the most valuable in the rugby world and the most well-guarded. The entire country is on-message, not just its rugby infrastructure.

Many have tried to topple New Zealand over the past year and none have succeeded. Payed 17 Tests, won 17 Tests. Within a fortnight New Zealand will be acclaimed (statistically) as the greatest side ever when they beat Australia in Auckland to register their 18th consecutive Test victory. No ifs. No buts.

There is more chance of Donald Trump becoming a suffragette than of the Wallabies winning at Eden Park in Auckland. New Zealand's last defeat there was in 1994.

The All Blacks are playing rugby of a different order. England may get there and Wales have shown glimmers. Australia have long nurtured athletes who have the sort of talent that can compete with the top-end players turned out by New Zealand, a production line that shows no signs of ever being on a go-slow. Goodbye Dan Carter. Hello Beauden Barrett (or Lima Sopoaga or Aaron Cruden). Adieu Captain Courageous Richie McCaw. Welcome Captain Fantastic Kieran Read. That transition is no fluke. It has been carefully choreographed for years.

That is what England and the rest are up against. They are not playing 15 against 15. They are playing 15 against four million.

When the game went professional in 1995, New Zealand (and others) opted to contract their players to the union. England and France dithered and private owners moved in.

As a result, the commercial riches are to be found in the north. The sporting riches in the south. Or New Zealand to be precise. The others are playing catch-up. Eddie Jones and the Rugby Football Union realise that. So too does Dai Young. The Kofi Annan of English rugby needs to be heeded.