Monday, 12 October 2015

Whither England (2015)?

I doubt anyone who knows anything much about rugby would, hand on heart, say that they expected England to win this World Cup. I certainly didn't.

There was hope, borne out of an encouraging 6 Nations campaign and the premise that home advantage would prove more an inspiration than a burden, but certainly not expectation.

What was expected, not unreasonably, was that England would progress from their Pool, despite the fact that somehow it was loaded with 4 out of the world's top 10 teams. Of course England had no divine right to escape the Pool stages - and they lost out to 2 very good teams - but nevertheless on balance they should have done so.

That they failed may be put down to a combination of factors that have been well documented elsewhere. Inexperience - both of coaches and players, poor squad selection, bizarre matchday team selection, poor decision making on and off the field, inconsistent and naïve tactical approach, the possible undue influence of certain characters within the coaching set up, the list goes on...

The ridiculous hype surrounding the England team was also unhelpful - to some extent it was inevitable but much of it was self-generated by the RFU and the excesses could and should have been avoided - with the overblown send-off party with Take That at the O2 Arena and the whole 'Make Them Giants' thing particularly cringeworthy.

So what happens now?

Coaches - if Stuart Lancaster is the honourable man that he would have us believe, he will resign as Head Coach, even if he has indicated that this may yet take couple of weeks. A new Head Coach, whoever that may be, should have the power to bring in his own staff, so the rest of Lancaster's coaching team should also go. The emphasis, given the RFU's resources, should be on finding "best of breed" in all instances. So, for example, if the breakdown is an issue (as it has been for some considerable time), who is the best breakdown coach out there?

Players -  England should have a far more experienced squad going into the next World Cup. There is a core there now that can take the team forward, together with others not included in the RWC squad and players coming through the age groups. Various players will have much to prove to a new coaching set up while others will need to be jettisoned or phased out over the coming few years...I think we all know who they are.

Conditioning - England looked off the pace in the last 15 minutes of both the Wales and Australia matches. Many of the forwards, in particular, appear to be carrying too much timber. England need to start producing packs that can last 80 minutes plus.

Tactics - given there is talent in the back three and, if correctly selected, in the midfield, England need to move away from their traditional set piece obsession. Yes, build as big, mean and nasty pack of forwards as you can muster and by all means be the best that you can possibly be in the tight phases. But if they start to treat the scrum as an attacking opportunity, rather than exclusively as a possible generator of 3 points, then England will be on the right path. See New Zealand, Australia, Japan as examples.

Captain - Chris Robshaw has taken way too much flak, most of it unfair. He strikes me as a decent, honest captain who leads by example and works his socks off for the team. Sadly his tenure is now irreparably holed beneath the waterline by the team's failure when it has really mattered, both in the 6 Nations and now the World Cup. A new Head Coach will want a new skipper. Personally I think Joe Launchbury fits the bill.

Selection Policy - possibly the most contentious issue facing England. Do they change their current policy and select players from outside the Premiership? The whole Steffon Armitage debate has overshadowed much of Lancaster's reign, but this should never be about individuals or exemptions or "exceptional circumstances". Either it is the right policy or it is the wrong policy and if it is the wrong policy it should be abandoned.

So, that's all sorted then...


sesenta y cuatro said...

Rugby myths

a) you have to sack a coach of a team that fails to deliver in the RWC.
b) England have the best pool of players in the World
c) England has the rights to be a powerhouse of rugby (or cricket, or soccer for that matter)

Given the above list of myths, I predict England to sack their coach, continue with the same policy of overplaying their players, oversizing their players and overspending in foreign players and yet continue to believe they have the rights to be called favourites come any tournament in the future.

Where is the hard work of JW? Where is the leadership of Martin Johnson? Where is the skill of Jason Robinson? Where workload of Dallaglio?

Total Flanker said...

The myths, one by one…

a) No, obviously you don't have to sack a coach of a team that fails at the RWC, but when there's a belief that it was the poor decision making of the coach that led to that failure, then it's certainly something that should be considered.
b) No one actually believes that England has the best pool of players in the World. What we probably do have is a deep pool of decent players. What we currently don't have is the wherewithal to transform enough decent players into world class players.
c) Again, no England rugby player or supporter believes that. The English media, however...

sesenta y cuatro said...

There is also a belief that when NZ stopped sacking coaches after yet another disaster at the RWC mostly good things came out of it, including an elusive second RWC title.