So, unless you have been hiding under a very large rock, you will now know that England have been knocked out of the Rugby World Cup and the media and public alike are baying for blood. It was a scenario that has been a possibility since the “Pool of Death” was announced well over a year ago, the fact that it has come to pass doesn’t make it any the more palatable.
So what needs to happen? Who is to blame?
The RFU must shoulder the blame for a) appointing Lancaster and b) for giving him and his fellow coaching staff contracts up to and beyond the 2019 world cup.
Lancaster must shoulder the blame for establishing a terrific culture but a team short on the necessary skill and rugby intelligence to play at the very top level.
Farrell (Snr) must shoulder the blame along with Rowntree and Catt as they have been complicit in creating this England team and developing the strategies and tactics with which they play and…..
Certain key players must shoulder the blame for their lack of ability to impose themselves against top tier teams when it really matters.
I must confess to have been as guilty as the next man in the immediate aftermath of last nights game to have joined the pack in demanding that Richie, the whole of the England management and Coaching staff and certain players must fall on their swords and do it immediately after the Uruguay match.
Let’s be controversial and just stop and think for a minute and ignore what is written above.
Yes it is absolutely true that many things have to change and that what happened to England was unacceptable for the richest and largest Rugby Union in the world, but there might not be need for root and branch changes of personnel.
The first, and perhaps most critical, question has to be, who is there to replace Lancaster and Co that is available and would be capable enough and willing to do the job? In the UK there are two potential names – Mallinder and Baxter, but are they really the right men? In the rest of the world there are a number of names that will no doubt be bandied around, but again would they offer the best solution? I’m not sure that they would.
We don’t have to cast our minds back too far to remember that two Knights of the Realm suffered similarly devastating and embarrassing exits from the World Cup and then went on to bring glory to their respective nations. Is Lancaster capable of this?
Both Sir Clive Woodward and Sir Graham Henry were on the brink of being sacked, but, seemingly by divine intervention, hung on to their jobs. It is what they did next that defined them. They both, along with their trusted lieutenants, took a step back, ripped up the play book and completely re defined how England and New Zealand went about their business both on and off the pitch.
I am sure that the process was both painful and cathartic and ultimately they were able to create something special and, most importantly, something that delivered the ultimate prize.
There has been a great deal invested in this England team – financially, technically, emotionally – and to say that it was all a total wast of time, effort and money might well be premature. The knowledge within the England camp is valuable don’t throw it away. That there have to be changes is a given, but it might be more about HOW we do things rather than the WHO. I am sure that there will be certain casualties, but what I am saying is that they must be the right ones and not a knee jerk reaction.
Rob Andrew was vilified in the press for saying that this team would not ‘come of age’ until 2019. Whoever is in charge of England after next weekend, must make sure that this prediction becomes a reality.
As Sir Humphrey might say “It is a very brave decision Minister” but it might just be the right one.