If Not Johnno – Who?

15 02 2010

There are many reasons why England are faltering in this years 6 Nations competition. Without a doubt the players are not exempt from blame, uncertain performances coming all over the park and no one really standing out. However, one argument continues to rear its head from a variety of sources. This is one which has many facets to it yet all seems to boil down to the same man. Much as it pains us to criticise a living legend, Martin Johnson appears to be unable to get England going in the right direction.

Yesterdays game was a classic example; not only did there appear to be no ‘A’ game plan – but there was no B and C either. The players were clearly told to ‘have a go’, yet for much of the game appeared to be scared to play what was in front of them for fear of failure. Johnson has admitted that in the recent Autumn internationals he was probably a little ‘over prescriptive’ and such sage judges as Lawrence Dallaghio have stated that the England players are ‘in awe’ of him, and consequently to frightened to make their own decisions.

It is of course very easy to sit behind our desk 2000 miles away and make comments on the state of English rugby and we freely admit our opinions are based on others comments who are closer to the action. Yet what is apparent is the lack of progress and the succession of poor performances. We do not doubt Johnson’s effort, integrity or hard work yet we feel he is not the man for the job.

The question therefore becomes; who is the right man? This is Rob Andrew’s decision and we feel if by the end of the 6 Nations no further progress has been made then he will have to make a difficult decision. There are huge question marks over exactly what Rob Andrew does himself and one feels that this could ultimately bring both him and Johnson down. We will tackle the Rob Andrew issue at some other time – instead let us take a look at some viable alternatives:

The English Contenders

Richard Cockerill
Originally a hot headed member of the Leicester front row who played 27 times for England, Cockerill got his chance in the coaching world when he began life as forwards coach for his old club side in 2005. After first Loffreda and then Meyer left he had spells as Acting Head Coach before finally being confirmed in the role in April last year. With the Guiness Premiership title already in his trophy cabinet and a runners up medal in the Heineken Cup, Cockerill has shown he has got what it takes to develop a successful side. Probably a little youthful and inexperienced for the top job, he has also suffered set backs this season with Leicester’s exit from the Heineken Cup in the group stages.

Jim Mallinder
A much underrated player in his day and unlucky only to win 2 England caps, Mallinder has been coaching since 2001. Upon retiring as a player he was immediately appointed Head Coach at Sale Sharks and enjoyed success by winning the European Challenge Cup. Following this he had a sojourn at the National Academy before being handed control of England Saxons with whom he won the Churchill Cup, beating New Zealand Maori in the final. Following on from this Mallinder then became coach at the newly relegated Northampton Saints, immediately gaining promotion to the top flight with an undefeated season. With Saints the only English side to qualify for the second round of this years Heineken Cup he has proved that he has the pedigree needed to coach England. Every team he has coached has also played a particularly attractive brand of rugby which if he could bring to the national team would be a much needed tonic to England supporters.

The Foreign Brigade

Eddie Jones
Currently Technical Director at Saracens, one gets the feeling Jones is waiting for his next big opportunity. A successful coach for ACT Brumbies and for a period Australia, it is unlikely the world has seen the last of him as an International Coach. His verbal jousts with Clive Woodward were legendary and he is undoubtedly a shrewd operator. He would definitely be an outside bet but with his pedigree and probable desire to regain a top job he could not be ruled out.

Jake White
With Tri Nations and World Cup wins under his belt for the Springboks, there is little doubt that White has the necessary calibre to do the job. Already having been linked with the England job during Ashton’s tenure, he is known to be interested in the position should it ever become free and is highly respected. Of all the non English coaches around he is undoubtedly the favourite to get the job, if that is the route Rob Andrew was to go down. 

So who do you think then?

There are undoubtedly many candidates who could do the job of which the four above are possibly the favourites. Other potential appointments could include Brendan Venter, currently of Saracens and Toby Booth of London Irish. These remain outside bets only and have less of a claim than the four nominated here. The Compulsive Hookers vote goes to Jim Mallinder, not only for being English, but for consistently having the track record of turning poor teams into good ones. Importantly his sides  also play an attractive style which could only do good things for English rugby which is currently shedding supporters due to the attritional style of play employed and lack of positive results. From Rob Andrew’s view, Jake White could potentially be considered favourite however we hope that when the time comes (and it could be soon), Mallinder gets the nod.

Who do you think should get the job? Put your thoughts down below!




2 responses

16 02 2010
Will Buck

I think Jonno is growing into the role and we need to give him time, as we did with Clive Woodward when he first started. I think the Leicester contingent does need to be broken up a bit however. I would suggest ousting John Wells. I never rated him as a player or as a coach and his talents have been hidden by some good packs. We are clearly struggling to produce quick ball and Toby Booth could easily come in to the forwards role. We need some leaders in the squad to step forward and we need to get rid of Borthwick first and foremost!! If we did get rid of Jonno, then I would be very happy to see Jake White come in. He has a proven track record of delivering a world cup and actually had South Africa playing some excellent rugby.

16 02 2010

I would like to agree with you Will, but I don’t really see it. Clive Woodward grew into the role but he at least had some experience prior to taking the job. I also believe Johno’s innate conservatism is harming Englands chances. He has had almost 2 years now and it seems to me we’re back to where we were when Andy Robinson was in charge.

We’ll see! Another couple of performances like this weekends and he may not get any more time at all.

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