World Cup win a disaster – something is rotten in the state of English rugby

Over a week ago England’s Rugby Football Union finally sacked poor Andy Robinson . Or rather, they didn’t sack him, but he’s “standing down” more than a little reluctantly and with a lot of confusion about the exact nature of his leaving the job. I’m sure 300,000 pounds sterling helped the kick in the teeth a little.

Now coachless, whither, England

English rugby is deep in crisis. It’s mid-December now, only a few short months until the Six Nations begins on Feb 3rd, and 10 months (10!) until the Rugby World Cup. What’s the plan now that they’ve kicked Robinson out the back door? According to Rob Andrew the plan is … nothing, especially if you’re a betting man…

If you are a betting man you would think it is highly likely no-one will be appointed by 3 February

Woodward: World Cup win “a disaster”

BBC Rugby: Rob Andrew hovers behind Andy Robinson at the England Autumn InternationalsThis is the headline of a sure to be controversial article in today’s Sunday Times, in which Sir Clive Woodward lays out why English rugby is in such a decline. If you’ve read his book “Winning!” -which I highly recommend for anyone interested in either sport or business management – you’ll know that the England job is all about managing the relationship with the Premiership clubs so that the elite players are available and properly prepared.

Woodward mentions this in his article, pointing out that the two form sides in the world currently are New Zealand and Ireland , and both have complete control of their international players. On the other hand, England management is a quagmire of day-to-day negotiations with clubs who are in control of the top players. The RFU had to go to the High Court to have players available for the New Zealand test and, ominously, Premier Rugby Ltd. the body representing the clubs said:

The clubs must now carefully assess the ramifications of this potentially reduced protection from international release and the impact this may have on clubs in the future.

Even the judge urged the two sides to reach an agreement!

Sir Clive also was critical of the image of Rob Andrew hovering over Andy’s shoulder during the autumn games. A “heavy duty top coach” would have told Andrew in “two short words” to stop hovering and remove himself to the commitee box. I wonder what those words would be?

We won the World Cup in spite of the system

When your World Cup winning manager says something like that, then no matter what your personal feelings are about him you must give it some serious consideration. This includes you, Francis Baron.

Who wants the England job?

A host of names have been linked with the England job, including World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson, former South Africa coach Nick Mallett, Harlequins coach Dean Richards and former Wasps and Ireland coach Warren Gatland.

Add to that list (from BBC Sport) some other potential candidates: Jake White, the current and under fire South Africa coach, and Rob Andrew himself, the currently elite director at the RFU who has ruled himself out. Let’s assume that these guys are all insane enough to take on the job of coaching this train-wreck to RWC07 and will put up with the inevitable defeats, the disgusting nastiness on the back pages, the boos at Twickenham and dealing with Francis Baron, Rob Andrew et al. If they’re willing to put up with all that, then managing the team to the World Cup will be a walk in the park. Who’s actually available?

  • Martin Johnson: Despite his on the pitch leadership, has never coached a team in his life. And he says he’s not keen on the job.
  • Nick Mallett: Not well known in this hemisphere, currently in Cape Town with Western Province. Has criticised the RFU recently and doesn’t seem very keen but he did express interest in the elite director position previous and is willing to move to England.
  • Dean Richards: Currently boss at Harlequins, says he could be persuaded: another potential candidate. Has the backing of the England captain, Martin Corry.
  • Warren Gatland: His boss at Waikato has insisted that Gatland would refuse any advances.
  • Jake White: He’s survived a vote of no-confidence at South Africa so might not be going anywhere.
  • Eddie Jones: has also expressed interest in the position.

Woodward is pretty definite about what should be done:

Nick Mallett, the South African, is far, far ahead as the best candidate as new head coach. But he would not dream of becoming enmeshed at present. Yet he is the one man who comes remotely close to matching the profile of what the job should be.

Mallett has said he does not want the job. Of course he wants it. It is just that he does not feel the need to apply – and more to the point, would have no part in the current structure.If the RFU is serious about recovery, it should go out and land him.

My feeling on it, unfortunately, is that the RFU is going to dismiss Woodward’s article as a personal attack due to his failure to get the elite director post. We’ll see how they respond in the press this week.

Whatever happens in English rugby between now and the Rugby World Cup 2007 , one thing’s for sure – there’s going to be 80,000 green clad fans in Croke Park on Feb 24th and we just can’t wait.


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  2. Well at least whoever gets the job can’t possibly do any worse, right? Course Woodward still thinks that England can win the world cup next year. That’d be some turnaround.

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