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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Autumn Internationals: Only Two Victories?

25 10 2010

A quick thought: New England Chief Executive John Steele has set what he believes to be a ‘realistic’ target in the fast approaching Autumn Internationals. His stated aim for Martin Johnson is to win two of England’s four games against variously New Zealand, Samoa, Australia and South Africa.

A tough four games undoubtedly; but we do not believe that a fifty percent record is enough. In the Compulsive Hooker’s view we would like to see three out of the four games won as, anything less than that, would not be engendering the necessary winning habit. For a long time (indeed ever since 2004) England have been a side ‘in development’ with the ‘performance of the team’ being more important than the result – or so the various England coaching staff members and teams would have us believe. This though is, quite frankly, rubbish.

Like Robbie Deans and Pieter De Villiers have both said over the past few days; going into a world cup year – winning’ is everything’. By being ‘realistic’ Steele is not setting the bar high enough for Johnson and is in danger of letting this current malaise of mediocrity continue. England are (and should be) a powerful and wealthy rugby nation with a huge player base and, crucially for the tournament next year, have a potentially brilliant set of youthful stars coming through. This Autumn is as good a time as any to ask them, when combined with the more senior and experienced players, to start performing and start judging the players by results – not a more subjective ‘performance’ measure.

In theory one win is more or less assured with England likely to be too powerful and organised for Samoa. Equally in theory one loss is more or less assured as the All Blacks have been playing some quite breathtaking rugby. Australia and South Africa are the games England should target having beaten the Wallabies in their last meeting and with the Springboks in disarray and suffering injuries.

After all, you would never see even a poor Australian or South Africa side contemplate anything other than a victory when playing at home. Twickenham, whilst not being the fortress it was at the beginning of the decade, is still a difficult venue for opposing teams to come and play at and, with that in mind, nothing less than three victories will suffice in our eyes…

Some Added Steele

8 10 2010

There appears to finally be some evidence of strong leadership emerging from the RFU over the past few days. John Steele, ex Northampton Heineken Cup winning coach and fly-half, has taken over from Francis Baron as Chief Executive of the RFU and has indicated that English rugby – with particular reference to Team England – is in for a real shake up.

The core message appears to be that he is not happy with England’s current position of 6th in the world rankings and that things have to change. What is different to Francis Baron’s interpretation of the job is that he has indicated a willingness to make tough decisions with regard to the positions of Head Coach Martin Johnson and his cohorts. Baron on the other hand let Rob Andrew take responsibility in his role as Elite Director of Rugby for the coaching staff (and therefore ultimately England’s performance) – a situation that has lead to a a succession of fiasco’s and wrong decisions.

To be fair to Baron in many ways he did a brilliant job for English rugby and it has been his financial nous that ensured English rugby is in such a position of strength – at least economically. That England should be languishing amongst the lower reaches of the senior nations is obviously not good enough and therefore it is a positive step to find someone willing to put the rugby first in charge.

With Steele willing to take responsibility, importantly indicating a willingness to change things pre-world cup should the performances this Autumn not meet the required levels, perhaps England fans can look forward to a period of renewed prosperity over the coming years. The question this raises is one that England fans have been asking for some time – what therefore is Rob Andrew’s role?

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