England Rugby appoint Ashton to head coach

In today’s announcement, fiendishly devised by Rob Andrew and the English Rugby Football Union to cast doubt upon my rugby prediction skills, Brian Ashton was promoted from Attack Coach to Head Coach of the England team.

Ashton has a lot of things going for him, but I don’t think he’s the right man for the job, this appointment smacks of desperation with the Rugby World Cup happening next year.

Rob Andrew has no doubts about moving Ashton up:

Brian is the most experienced coach in England , he has enormous respect with the players and he has massive international and club experience. This coaching team have only been together since May and I believe Brian is the right man to lead the coaches and players into a new period for English rugby starting with the Six Nations opener against Scotland.

Jeff Probyn (former England prop) thinks Ashton’s appointment was a mistake.

It’s a short term stopgap and that’s not what England need, they need to put in place a structure that will take them forward for the next 10 years rather than taking a short-term view. The current thinking is obviously let’s appoint Brian, get through the World Cup and then appoint someone else. Brian works well alongside others who make decisions. Coaching-wise he’s the man to take England forward. But as a head coach, decision-maker and planner of the broader vision to take England forward, he’s not the right man.

Exactly my thinking. Here’s some other commentry on Ashton as England boss:

Sir Clive Woodward:

Not that good in terms of winning international rugby matches

Will Carling:

He’s a great coach but I think we need a manager

Donal Lenihan:

I have a huge amount of respect for Brian and I’m sure the England players will as well

Stuart Barnes, unfortunately worded:

England need a head coach who is not scared of losing and that man is Brian Ashton

And finally Ashton himself:

It’s a massive privilege. I recognise the challenges ahead of us and along with the other coaches in the team my focus now is to prepare England to play Scotland on February 3

Will he be successful? It’s hard to know what success is in terms of this team – beating Scotland, Italy and one other in the Six Nations would be a good start. One positive for him is that English rugby can’t possibly get any worse.