Johnson Out – Please Let Rob Andrew Follow Him…

17 11 2011

So England’s dire performance in the World Cup last month has taken its toll and the first casualty amongst the coaches has gone. Martin Johnson, England legend and dignified as always stepped down from his position as England Manager citing the fact that England’s world cup results have made it impossible for him to continue.

We, as England fans, feel mixed emotions about this. True the Compulsive Hooker had been calling for him to be moved aside almost ever since the inception of this blog (here and here to give you two examples). We had always felt that he wasn’t the right man for the job and as such feel this is the right thing to have done albeit belatedly, but, we do still feel  for Johnson.

The honesty and straight talking nature of the man himself – his frustration palpable to see when asked about the latest yellow card, innumerable penalties that lost a game or the inability of his team to combine into a decent rugby unit – combined with the apparently inept RFU and the betrayal of trust in him by such established players as Mike Tindall means that we do have some sympathy.

Obviously his wasn’t an easy job made harder by some of the idiots around him. However, the fact remains that his appointment was a flawed one – more subject to a popular vote from the media it seemed than any logical reasoning. We have always felt that the head coach/manager – call him what you will – should above all be a brilliant selector. Someone who can spot talent, nurture it and develop it. This was something that Clive Woodward was brilliant at, often plucking players from near obscurity or others who were unfashionable and turning them into world beaters. Johnson’s stubbornness over certain players – the names of Borthwick, Hape and Tindall spring to mind – is well known and undoubtedly held England back at various points over the last three years.

Yet, having said all that, every so often Martin Johnson’s England team clicked and produced excellent displays of rugby (remember the 34-10 demolition of France in 2009, the 35-18 win over Australia a year later just after winning down under too) and each time there was the hope that England had turned a corner but sadly this never happened. Jonno has gone, England are once more in a state of flux and the England fans lot is no better than at any point over the last 8 years.

For us though, much of the blame of the last 6 years should rest fairly and squarely on Rob Andrew’s shoulders. Andrew has presided over the hiring and firing of three coaches (although to be fair he didn’t hire Andy Robinson) and each time he has handled it ineptly. The firing of Brian Ashton in particular was a disgrace. We are informed by the people over at wikipedia that his nickname is ‘squeaky’ which seems about right – currently he is ‘standing firm’ and we would not be surprised to find him still in control in 3 years time. Nothing sticks to him.

For England moving forward we believe the there should be a clear out from top to bottom of the coaching staff – and unfortunately for Andrew that includes him, the man who employs those coaching staff. He has to take responsibility for the last 6 years. He came into the role as the Elite Perfomance Director and we would suggest that some of England’s performances (a country with more resources and players than almost every other) have been less than elite. Quite apart from the man management issues, it’s time for him to go.

There is however no reason to be all doom and gloom as there are some very bright young players in the England set up; Tom Wood, Ashton, Lawes, Dan Cole to name but a few and with the U20 sides being so strong too there is no reason to think that come 2015, England won’t have a reasonable chance. Out with the old, Tindall, Hape, Moody etc and in with the new.

We do realise of course it is very easy to sit here and criticise but the honest truth is that England should be doing better and we as England fans are not happy to see such mediocrity game in, game out.

Thoughts?

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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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