Six Nations: Gary Neville to address England's rugby players

By Bryn PalmerBBC Sport
Gary Neville, left, with David Beckham
Gary Neville, left, is 12th on the all-time England caps list with 85 appearances

Former Manchester United star Gary Neville will use the spirit of Euro 96 to remind England's rugby players of the pride of playing for their country.

The ex-England footballer will address the squad on Thursday as part of new coach Stuart Lancaster's attempts to change the culture following their unsavoury World Cup exploits.

"I am trying to remind the players about the pride and honour and standing of being an international rugby player in this country; it is massive," said Lancaster.

"When Gary Neville says it is an honour, it is an honour. And if the players understand that, then you get more responsible behaviour as well."

As part of their pre-tournament preparations for this year's Six Nations, Lancaster's squad will also receive motivational talks from former Glamorgan and England batsman Hugh Morris,external-link now managing director of English cricket, and four-time Grand Final-winning Leeds rugby league captain Kevin Sinfieldexternal-link.

Neville, England rugby league captain Jamie Peacock and wounded soldier Simon Brownexternal-link will address the concept of what it means to play - and fight - for your country

The words of Neville, capped 85 times and part of the England team who reached the semi-finals at Euro 96, may strike a chord with some England players who experienced how lurid off-field antics by some of the squad affected the on-field performances of a team that had ambitions of reaching the final, but bowed out in the quarter-finals.

"Gary never turned down playing for his country," added Lancaster. "He is one of the most capped England players ever.

"He was frustrated, because he never felt he achieved with England what he wanted to achieve.

"He wants to help the players understand that, when you are playing for your country and you get it right, like England did at Euro 96, how powerful that is, to get the nation behind you.

"The 'Three Lions on the shirt' - we all felt that.

"Gary wants to help our team get that feeling. His message is good. He is not doing this for any other reason than he wants to try to help.

"His brother Phil also played for England, his sister Tracey played for England at netball. When I asked him, he said it was an honour to do it, as did everyone else."

England flanker Tom Wood, who will miss the opening two games of the Six Nationsexternal-link because of a toe injury but remains with the squad at their Leeds training base, admits that events at the World Cup meant a change of emphasis was required.

"I think the shift had to come about on the basis we under-achieved," said the Northampton forward, a contender for the captaincy until his injury.

"Things didn't go as well as we would have liked but we learnt the lessons, we had an internal review and we are in a confident place now moving forward.

"We have drawn a line under that and we are all very excited about where we are heading."

England begin the defence of their Six Nations crown against Scotland at Murrayfield on 4 February, in what will be Lancaster's first match in charge of the senior side.

He was appointed in a temporary capacity following Martin Johnson's decision to quit in the wake of that disappointing World Cup campaign.