Rob Andrew Steele’s Himself For Exit

11 01 2011

Good news emerging from the RFU over the past few days as new CEO, John Steele, looks to streamline the RFU structure and notably either remove, or at the very least reposition, Rob Andrew’s role. If any of you can remember that far back, this is something that we have been calling for since practically our first blog piece was ever published on this website.

It is of course true that no one man is to blame for the travails of English rugby, yet, it is equally true, that some have more influence than others. As the man with just about the most direct influence on the English game, Rob Andrew has for too long been unwilling to take responsibility despite, up until Steele’s assumption of ultimate accountability, being the man with the job. In fact, he has rarely even acknowledged failure of any sort as a succession of coaches have led England through the last few years in rugby’s no man’s land. What really grated was the inane comments to the press and the assertion, given throughout his tenure, that England were rebuilding and there was nothing wrong with the England set up as well as his handling of Brian Ashton’s dismissal. It does appear though that finally we will not have to listen to this rubbish much longer he will be shifted sideways and down or out altogether.

The much mooted replacements appear to be either Jake White or Clive Woodward – both in their times highly successful coaches and world cup winners and both surely would perform better than Andrew. We don’t feel particularly strongly either way although it would appear that Clive Woodward’s CV, given his work in a similar role in Athletics, has the better claim and, given some residual loyalty due to his coaching days with England, we would pick him.

Jim Mallinder was also a name quoted as potentially being a candidate for the role although pleasingly he yesterday ruled himself out by saying he is looking for the ‘right role with England’. Mallinder is an excellent coach and we hope one day that he might get Johnson’s job. Every team he coaches usually plays an attractive style of rugby and he has done good things with Northampton so in the long term he is an excellent candidate for the managers role.

Whoever is picked this is a massive year for English rugby with the World Cup coming up and so it is important that Steele makes the right choice. With England playing better rugby and Rob Andrew being shown the door we are feeling more positive about things than we have done for some time.

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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!

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