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Twickenham is the home of English rugby and that must always remain the case.

Any good business should explore its opportunities and options for the future so I’ve no issue with the RFU that they looked into selling Twickenham and buying 50 per cent of Wembley Stadium. But I must say I’m glad that hasn’t happened. Doing so would have been criminal.

Wembley is the home of English football – where the nation won the 1966 World Cup in 1966 and the Lionesses the 2022 Euros. Twickenham, by contrast, is synonymous with rugby and always should be. Plus, I know from the personal experience of losing to Wales there in 1999 that English rugby’s Wembley record isn’t good!

My views might seem old fashioned to many, but it’s vital the RFU respects the history of our great game.

Twickenham is the home of English rugby and leaving the iconic stadium would be detrimental

Twickenham is the home of English rugby and leaving the iconic stadium would be detrimental

Droves of supporters arrive at Twickenham ahead of England's Six Nations clash with Wales

Droves of supporters arrive at Twickenham ahead of England’s Six Nations clash with Wales

Twickenham is here to stay and rightly so, but the RFU are also entirely right to look at redeveloping and improving the stadium.

They must not rest on their laurels in this regard. If you compare Twickenham to modern stadia in this country like the home of Tottenham Hotspur, it is massively behind.

Here’s my five-point plan on how the RFU can improve the home of our national game…

1. Build an RFU Centre of Excellence at Twickenham

The RFU development plan for Twickenham mentions sums north of £600million in terms of cost. Clearly, this is an astronomical figure although there is an acceptance that can’t be afforded right now.

Mail Sport columnist Sir Clive Woodward

Mail Sport columnist Sir Clive Woodward

Without being privy to the costs involved, I believe it would be hugely beneficial for England if Twickenham became not just their home match venue, but a central hub for the whole of English rugby. 

By that, I mean creating a venue age group teams and senior national sides – both men’s and women’s – can call home. England’s senior teams train at Pennyhill Park right now. Pennyhill is a wonderful facility. The men’s team first moved there when I was head coach and it was my decision to do that. 

But I think now is the time for the RFU to create a centre of excellence to host all its teams. Twickenham would be the perfect place to do that in my opinion. There is space in the west car park to produce such a facility. 

Yes it would mean possibly scrapping the car park and hospitality areas, but the RFU has to decide what their priority is. Is it rugby or making money? I would create a new facility with a training pitch, gym and all the extras you need next to Twickenham. 

Now is the time for the RFU to create a centre of excellence to host all of England's teams

Now is the time for the RFU to create a centre of excellence to host all of England’s teams

Twickenham stadium's car park pictured during the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020

Twickenham stadium’s car park pictured during the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020

It would connect the pathway sides with the senior teams. It wouldn’t be cheap, but England would save a lot of money if they left Pennyhill and it would be a wise investment. England trained at Twickenham last week and 10,000 fans showed up. That is a fantastic way of connecting the team with the supporters. 

How good would it be if that happened more often? Wales, Scotland and France all have a central base they call home. It’s about time England had one too.

2. Sort out the train station

Twickenham train station has undergone a great deal of work in recent years, but on the face of it all that seems to have happened is that they’ve built multiple new properties around it rather than improving the infrastructure. 

Simply put, it remains the case that getting to and from Twickenham via train both before and in the immediate aftermath of a game is an absolute nightmare. That has been the case for a long time now. Clearly the RFU can’t control public transport, but if I were them I’d be moving heaven and earth to work with Transport for London to improve things. 

There can be no doubt in my opinion that the enormous queues at the train station – which can be hours long after full time – do put some fans off attending matches.

Twickenham also draws huge crowds in domestic rugby. Pictured: Thousands of fans turn out in force ahead of the 2022 Gallagher Premiership Final between Leicester Tigers and Saracens

Twickenham also draws huge crowds in domestic rugby. Pictured: Thousands of fans turn out in force ahead of the 2022 Gallagher Premiership Final between Leicester Tigers and Saracens 

England succeed in the lineout against Wales at Twickenham as they narrowly triumph 16-14

England succeed in the lineout against Wales at Twickenham as they narrowly triumph 16-14

3. Make the seats bigger

Twickenham has an impressive capacity of 82,000. When the ground is full and the crowd is firing on all cylinders it can be a very special place. But having watched matches there in recent years as a fan, the reality is it is not the best fan experience. The seats are very cramped together. 

Clearly getting as many fans in as possible maximises revenue. But again, it shouldn’t all be about money and I think ensuring those in the stadium are comfortable would make for a big improvement.

4. Embrace alcohol-free zones  

In the last few years I’ve constantly maintained that Twickenham has turned into the world’s biggest pub with fans coming and going to the bar or the toilet during matches

Drinking at Twickenham has become a huge part of watching the rugby for many supporters

The RFU is conducting a trial where fans cannot drink alcohol in some sections of Twickenham

For many, drinking often seems to be the priority over watching the rugby. The RFU is conducting a trial at Twickenham where in some sections of the stands it is prohibited to drink alcohol. It was used during the recent match against Wales and I think they are a fantastic idea.

I think Twickenham should implement a permanent alcohol-free zone like the Welsh Rugby Union has at Principality Stadium.

5. Don’t forget the most important thing

We can talk all we like about improving a stadium. We can mention half time DJ’s, pre-match light shows and beer prices. But the most important thing in terms of getting the best out of where you play your home matches is to ensure your team is performing to its absolute best. 

If England – and by that I mean their men’s and women’s senior teams – can get 82,000 people jumping off their seats with excitement at the way they are playing then the job is done. I think it’s fantastic the Red Roses are starting to play more at Twickenham. 

Revolutionising Twickenham also falls at Steve Borthwick's door. The England men's head coach must ensure that the team is performing to their absolute best at their home stadium

Revolutionising Twickenham also falls at Steve Borthwick’s door. The England men’s head coach must ensure that the team is performing to their absolute best at their home stadium

It’s fantastic to see the Red Roses playing more at Twickenham following a successful spell

It’s fantastic to see the Red Roses playing more at Twickenham following a successful spell

Let’s see that continue and England inspiring young women and girls to play rugby in the way the Lionesses have done for football

For the men, I’d like to see the team play a more attacking brand of rugby and move away from a kicking and physical strategy.

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This post first appeared on Daily mail

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