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Trouble at the top for RFU

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Alastair Eykyn | 14:12 UK time, Thursday, 17 November 2011

Eight years ago, almost to the day, Martin Johnson was feted as the sole English captain to lift the World Cup trophy.

On Wednesday, he shuffled sadly out of Twickenham, weighed down by the burdens of management, apparently unclear about his motives for resigning.

Perhaps he was aware that if he did not jump, he would be pushed.

Certainly he knew his coaching staff would be changed, and that the Rugby Football Union hierarchy remained a jumbled confusion.

There was little support from the man sat by his side at Wednesday’s news conference, his former line manager Rob Andrew.

Johnson

Martin Johnson resigns as England manager following a miserable World Cup which ended in quarter-final defeat by France and also featured a series of off-field controversies. PHOTO: PA

When asked if he would have backed Johnson had he wanted to stay, Andrew refused to answer, saying it was “a hypothetical situation”.

Johnson’s three-and-a-half years at the helm were the original mixed bag, as a win ratio of 55% suggests.

Originally appointed in April 2008, Johnson missed the summer tour of New Zealand because of the birth of his second child and selected the team from afar.

England were thumped twice and the tour was notable mainly for the serious (and entirely baseless) allegations of rape against four players.

When he did take over properly, his side were on the end of three hammerings from the southern hemisphere nations at Twickenham.

They conceded a combined 102 points, scoring only 26 in reply. It was an inglorious start.

And there were disciplinary problems on the field for a long time under Johnson.

In the early days, his teams repeatedly gave away costly “soft” penalties, and while they showed spirit and resilience, they rarely offered much in the way of attacking rugby.

A couple of average Six Nations campaigns came and went and then, in the summer of 2010, there seemed to be a watershed moment for Johnson and his coaches.

England finally claimed a southern hemisphere scalp away from home, beating Australia 21-20 in Sydney, with tries from the young newcomers Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton.

The team repeated the dose against the Wallabies a few months later at Twickenham in one of the most fabulous displays the old place had ever seen.

The stands were rocked to their foundations as Ashton scored one of England’s greatest-ever tries, finishing a move that had begun on his own try line.

That proved Johnson’s best day as team manager. England went on to win the Six Nations, but the manner of their defeat by Ireland on the final day hinted at deep-rooted problems still to be fixed.

Their performances at the World Cup suggested that far from improving, the team had actually gone into reverse.

One of Johnson’s biggest failings was his overriding sense of loyalty.

This is normally an admirable quality, but it ended up clouding Johnson’s judgement.

For two years, Steve Borthwick was his England captain, even though his form and leadership qualities were questionable.

Johnson became entrenched in his stance on Borthwick until a knee injury allowed him to quietly drop the Saracens lock altogether.

His loyalty to the “old guard” of 2003 also created problems. The most obvious example was his selection of Jonny Wilkinson as the starting fly-half for the World Cup, when Toby Flood had been the number 10 for most of the preceding year.

With Flood directing traffic and standing close to the gain line, England at least offered some kind of threat in their back division. Wilkinson’s more conservative approach and fading form meant the attacking impetus was lost.

His very unusual failure to kick the goals compounded the problem. Yet Johnson was unmoved.

In the back division, power was preferred to subtlety at every turn.

Johnson picked the one-dimensional Ayoola Erinle at inside centre in November 2009.

Shontayne Hape seemed some way short of international quality, but Johnson persisted with him throughout the last year of his tenure until Manu Tuilagi burst on to the scene at the World Cup.

And despite the success of the likes of Richie McCaw, Sam Warburton and David Pocock, England chose to embark on their World Cup campaign without a traditional “fetching” open-side flanker.

In the credit column, Johnson did blood the likes of Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes, Youngs, Ashton and Ben Foden, yet many would argue they were all given their chance one season too late – and even then because of injuries to Johnson’s preferred choices.

Critically, Johnson failed to ensure that the culture and environment within the England camp was programmed for success.

Instead, ill-discipline crept in. The well-chronicled incidents involving Mike Tindall, Ashton, James Haskell and Tuilagi contributed to the manager’s downfall.

It was his job to provide the boundaries for the players and they let him down and there seemed to be little by way of a deterrent.

Andrew’s position is now also being called into question. The head of the RFU’s elite rugby department has now overseen the departures of Andy Robinson, Brian Ashton and Johnson.

He has failed to accept any accountability for the World Cup escapades and at Johnson’s final news conference at Twickenham, many onlookers found Andrew’s manner patronising and flippant, when explanations and clarity were surely the order of the day.

Andrew’s biggest success has been in negotiating the eight-year agreement reached between the clubs and the RFU, guaranteeing access to players for periods of international rugby.

With two separate reviews scrutinising his role, it may not be enough for him to keep his job though.

 

BBC PODCAST: Mark Pougatch reacts to Martin Johnson's departure as England Rugby Union head coach, featuring Nick Easter, Ben Kay, Matt Dawson and Brian Moore.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    First off I think it's a shame Johnson has gone now. Personally I think he should have been given the six nations to prove himself and then the RFU could have had the whole summer to find a decent replacement, should they need to. As is they are now in a situation where they have to get some one in PDQ to sort out their own coaching staff and role. Plus unless I'm mistaken they're stuck where the majority of the EPS are of Johnson's choosing. Sure most will be the same but what if they wanted to do a 30+ cull?

    As for Rob Andrew he has to be under pressure. At the moment he seems to be trying to distance himself saying oh well it's down to the manager really. But if Ashton, Robinson and Johnson weren't of the right standard for the job then someone must be making continuous mistakes in keeping on picking the wrong person for the job and who's the person that has had the most influence on that? Step forward Rob Andrew. So either he's made mistakes in picking the wrong man for the job or he's made mistakes in letting the right man go.

  • Comment number 2.

    Bit of a mess.

    Because of the dilly dallying Edwards signed with Wales and now they are after Rowntree. If two of our best coaches end up coaching a fellow British team then there is something seriously wrong.

    Not been a good period this. There will be a lot of talk about re-organise and re-structuring, roots and branch reviews, possibly an allotment, but really we just need a coach who has a good CV to manage the wealthiest rugby union in the world.

    They can stick their synergy where the sun doesnt shine

  • Comment number 3.

    Haven't read the article but I'll throw my two pence worth forward, so apologies if this is covered above...

    Andrew has to go. Simple. His position is simply untenable given the lack of direction he has given to the game in the last x years. He did a great job with the club agreement that, arguably, only he could have done. However, that is now done. He has nothing else to offer.

    Sad for Johnno, but as I have said before on these blogs, the team seemed to have little respect for anyone - Johnno, themselves, others, rules, referees etc - and also no real philosophy of how they play rugby.

    We relied on keeping slow, stodgy possession and something suddenly happening. Maybe Johnno needs to go away, coach in the leagues and cut his teeth and learn a style of play that he wants his teams to adopt - the place for learning is not at the top table.

    That said, the RFU have handled this as only they can. Inept is the word. Good luck to the new man. I hope it's Mallinder and I hope they get rid of the coaches (not Rowntree) and let Mallinder brred his own culture.

    On a separate note, I hope they breed a new culture at HQ too in the board room... but Will Carling's famous comment is looking even more poignant!

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm sorry to see Johnno go and agree with 'thelastkingofengland'.

    Still lots of questions for me though regarding Rob Andrew and his role or lack of it in all this (I agree with the writers comments about him being flippant and patronising), the behaviour of England players through the RWC tournament, the perfromance on the pitch of those said players and also how all the back biting at rugby HQ has affected the outcome overall.

    As for timing, not perfect is it. Perhaps someone to speak to Rob Andrew about this since HQ obviously haven't learnt or put inot place any successikon planning for this scenario even though we had the same scenario with Clive Woodward leaving with no obvious successor along with Robinson and Ashton. Talk about structures - this doesn't make strategic sense and if anyone would like to talk to me about this, I will be available later.

    The richest RFU in the world...........................

  • Comment number 5.

    I feel sorry for Rob Andrew. He is the RFUs lightning rod and seems to come under fire every time they screw up (which is often lets be honest). He didn't want to appoint Johnno in the first place, he was one of voices in the RFU calling for Ashton to keep his job. Yet Martyn Thomas wanted Johnno so he had to back down. He did see through the negotiation as has been mentioned, but he has also overseen the development of the England age groups and we are now seeing a crop of seriously good players coming through the ranks (U20 world cup finalists etc Homer, Joseph, Ford, Farrell etc). Yet because people think that Andrew's job begins and ends with the senior team they wonder what it is he does. I think his performance yesterday was one of someone who knows that no matter what happens the axe is already being sharpened...

    As far as Johnno's replacement goes I hope Mallinder doesn't get it. I think we need to go for a highly rated, foreign coach who has experience of developing a coaching team and who can put the senior team into some sort of order whilst the RFU sort out their in house troubles. The words complete overhaul have been used alot recently, but that is what is needed and this takes time. We need a coach with international coaching experience and who can get on with the job regardless of what is going on around him. I think Mallinder is a top coach, but I don't think he has this experience just yet. I'd go for Eddie Jones in the mean time and let Mallinder have a go when he has a bit more experience under his belt and maybe have more support around him at a more settled RFU.

    The only consolation I can take from this whole sorry affair is that the WRFU had similar problems with power hungry leeches at the top of their organistion and they managed to get their house in order and create a far more efficient union. I hope we can follow that example...

  • Comment number 6.

    @5 Don't you think Rob Andrew is the problem??

    I'm sorry Johnson is going (and that's from a Scot) he should have been given time to mature into his role but I suggest the importance of having a "name" was the priority.

    I have no time for Rob Andrew his management style appears to be "CYOB" first and worry about everything else after. It's important for English Rugby that he goes as well though I suspect he has his quibbling excuses ready.

    The RFU needs a clear out from top to bottom and it needs it soon. There are still too many people resting on the laurels of 2003 and it's working to the detriment of the National game.

    We need a strong England - without that we in Scotland can only complain about our own dire performances

  • Comment number 7.

    It is sad that MJ has gone but his record of making a silk purse from the RFU’s sow’s ear is not good. Bringing the baggage of being a great player to a different role with the hyena press expecting miracles would be too much for most people. A new coach with a lower playing profile and less expectation from the public would give England a chance of a fresh start.

    With regard to AE’s comments, which “fetching” open side flanker do you suggest MJ should have picked? After all the Premiership is stuffed with English “Richie McCaws” isn’t it? And Borthwick wasn’t everyone’s favourite but he gave all he could to England and offered a degree of stability while youth and inexperience found its feet.
    Also the “well chronicled” incidents involving some of the players … do you know what, the last thing these incidents were is “well chronicled”. There was, and is, much hysteria and hyperbole from the media but very little in the way of factual reporting. I still do not know what it is that Tindall is supposed to have actually done to warrant such draconian punishment. And secret justice is bad justice. As for the other three, it is clear from their interviews that they feel the incident was blown out of all proportion. Presumably the RFU did so too with their reduced condemnation.
    I know two people who have returned from NZ with comments about the, almost orchestrated, “anti English” sentiments expressed out there whipped up by the media.
    Both expressed the view that the English players were a joy to meet and chat to.

    Just as an aside, why the euphoria surrounding the Welsh team? They lost the big games they played – playing “if only” doesn’t count! Warburton’s forswearing alcohol is held up as a virtue whereas Wilkinson’s reluctance to indulge a few years ago was portrayed as evidence of a “wimpish” character. Also fighting in night clubs and driving golf carts along motorways was not a characteristic of the English players.

    OK rant over!

  • Comment number 8.

    Alastair, you blog raises the key issues.

    This is a very messy affair, and, as a rugby lover, I wish our national game was less messy more often.

    In the end, I think it was right that MJ left. There have been just too many failures of judgment in the past 3.5 years to allow the thought "one more heave' following the dismal performance in NZ. An let's all be honest, MJ was given virtually an entire world cup cycle to produce a competitive team, and they failed. And it was not even a glorious failure.

    MJ was stubbornly loyal to those in a very narrow orbit – WC 2003 squad and Leicester. He was always suspicious of flair players, and Danny Cipriani was an example of someone who could have been mentored but was cold-shouldered for reasons far less heinous than anything that occurred in NZ. New blood, such as Ashton, Foden Tuilagi came in far too late in the cycle and seemed to come into the team by accident rather that part of a long-term strategy. For the first couple of years, MJ picked his side to win the match rather than plan for the future. These were wilderness years.

    All that said, nothing became the man more than the manner of his leaving. It is clear from Rob Andrew's response at the press conference and from the fact that Nick Mallett had already been approached, that MJ was given the option of resigning before he has sacked. MJ was dignified and loyal to everyone. Rob Andrew hid in MJ's vast shadow and allowed the big man to intervene and keep offering his chin for the blows.

    Andrew's performance was disingenuous, shifty and weak. It will be harder for England to appoint a head coach/manager (which is it??) when none could ever be confident of the ability, support or bone fides of their line manager.

    As a post script that goes to the core of the administration of English rugby, to lose the services of Shaun Edwards once may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose them twice looks like carelessness!

  • Comment number 9.

    All the above posts make good points. I think it's the RFU that needs cleaning out, but can't say I'm happy with the whole academy system for player development either.

    I used to be a regular at Nottingham when Rob Andrew played there and, having known him slightly, believe (for want of a better phrase) his heart is in the right place and he shouldn't be scapegoated any more than Jonno.

    It still strikes me that players don't seem to take pride in playing for England in the same way as they do for other countries.

    Perhaps we are "a nation of shopkeepers" after all

  • Comment number 10.

    PS, Sorry about the typos at #8

  • Comment number 11.

    @6. I certainly don't think that he's the problem. The point I'm making though is that the RFU as an organisation is far more culpable for the failure of English rugby than Rob Andrew alone. He is however the butt of most of the criticism as few understand what his remit actually is and also he is the one giving the interviews to the media whilst the blazers hide behind the walls of Twickenham. But I'm also not saying that he's infallible either. I agree with you that the whole setup needs clearing out and rebooting. At that stage I would imagine that he would be part of the cull.

  • Comment number 12.

    #11

    While I take your point that RA is the one giving interviews, so he is inevitably the butt of criticism, I would point to the press conference yesterday, when he had the opportunity to take command of the podium, appear in charge of his brief and offer leadership, but he failed ignominiously to do so. Martin Johnson, having already fallen on his sword, adopted that role, and RA seemed like a lip-chewing, rather rude, apparatchik.

  • Comment number 13.

    @12. Agreed. And from my previous posts I am not defending RA to the hilt. All I am saying is that there is a histeria around him at the moment and whilst he is not beyond criticism I have a certain amount of sympathy for him. Of all the staff at the RFU he is one of the few that has actually achieved something in his employ there yet he is being hounded out by the public and the media. I think he has been treading a fine line between Martyn Thomas and a back-stabbing environment at the RFU, dealing with the media and public perception and all the while trying to do what is right by English rugby (@9). As I said in my first post his performance yesterday was in my opinion one of someone who seemed fed up with the whole sorry affair and probably resigned to his eventual fate. And don't forget it was him who was wheeled out in front of the waiting media to explain the fiascos of Robinson's and Ashton's demises as well. At the third time of dealing with the RFUs disaster management you could forgive him for being a bit fed up I think! He is not without blame, but he is not solely responsible for this mess and this is beginning to look like a rather unseemly witch hunt.

  • Comment number 14.

    #13

    There is much merit in your post. I guess my view, in a pretty ugly situation, is that RA could have resigned if he felt strongly about the decisions that were being continually made around him. I can understand a backroom man, an out-and-out administrator out of the public eye, doggedly doing his best to keep the ship afloat. But RB was far too high profile, with far too many responsibilities to simply act as a spokesman, handling and spinning the failures of those above him and below him. If one accepted the main thrust of your view, well made as it is, RA has, over a number of years, acted as the glue that has kept a dysfunctional organisation together. If only he had made a stand when he was less "fed up" with the whole sorry story, when it may have made a difference. Now, he is most likely to be swept away in the wholescale cull that will follow the Slaughter and May inquiry.

    Having said all this, as I suggested in my earlier post, Martin Johnson, honourable as he may be, dignified as he may be, was a poor manager.

  • Comment number 15.

    #14 I have to say I completely agree with you. The fact that RA didn't stand up for what he believed in has ultimately cost him all his credibility. He should have resigned after his review into Brian Ashton's performance concluded that he be kept on and then Martyn Thomas fired him anyway and appointed Johnno. That made him look spineless and his position became untenable after that. Maybe if he had resigned at that time he would have put some pressure on Martyn Thomas and this mess would have been dealt with four years ago instead of being allowed to fester. I just think that he has made some bad decisions, not out of self-interest but bad judgement, and he is being portrayed as the pantomime villain because of it.

    Anyhoo, as far as MJ goes it is a shame that such a legend of the game has had such a fearsome reputation damaged by this. He should never have been offered the job in the first place and it was naive of him to think that his enormous presence would be able to make up for his lack of (any) coaching experience. Compounded by the complete lack of support from his employers and the outcome was inevitable, no matter how much we all wanted it to be different.

  • Comment number 16.

    #15

    I agree. Lions led by donkeys comes to mind!

  • Comment number 17.

    Agree with many that taking on the role as the England coach as your first coaching assignment was not the best decision made by the RFU, or MJ himself. Sorry to see MJ go but the best decision for all.

    Rob Andrew's inability to accept, or own, any accountability for what has gone wrong is dissappointing to say the least. As it stands he presents an image of someone who is not entirely trustworthy as a boss and someone interested mostly in his own survival. Perfect material for the RFU leadership team!

  • Comment number 18.

    this is typical English knee jerk reactions to poor performances with the authorities the RFU not accepting any responsibility and blaming the manager . It appears Rugby has followed Football in this behaviour of

    i) either England are world beaters
    ii) absolutely atrocious amateurs

    and if its atrocious then there is a supposed massive inquest to find a scapegoat and usually always the manager with no one in higher authority willing to take blame

    As Will Carling said the RFu is run by a bunch of old f@rts like the FA in football. It was them who went for Johnson a man with no previous coaching experience

  • Comment number 19.

    Martin Johnson had little choice, and in keeping with his reputation as a player, he has decided to take the honourable exit route by way of self-firing. This was a brave decision but one that was ethical and of high moral fortitude. Johnson did well but could have done better. He was not outstanding but he was competent. At the end of the day, his English players and their immature "laddish" behaviour was far from professional and cost Johnson any options he had to continue. They should hang their heads in shame and Johnson should hold his high.

    The future ain't white, allwight, it is red instead.

  • Comment number 20.

    In terms of structure, I was bemused when Rob Andrew said that the national team was just 20% of his responsibility. Bemused and appalled. RA said this, I presume, as a defence mechanism as in, do not blame me, this is a tiny part of what I do.

    But the popularity of the game at grass roots level, starting from mini rugby in small local clubs to attendance at premiership matches, and the financing of the same, is dependent on the success of the English national game. How can the RFU administrator responsible for England and the England manager turn round and effectively dismiss it as occupying only 20% of his time. It has to represent 100% of someones time. Let someone else handle the other 80%. RA wants to lecture the press on how big business works. Well, (1) it works on results; (2) it works on identifying the key income streams and protecting and advancing them. Not letting them wither on the vine for want of expertise or attention. English rugby is too big and too important to take up just 20% of the main man's time!

  • Comment number 21.

    1. Among others MJ served in the Woodward set-up and the Cotton/McGeechan/Telfer set-up so if he was capable of learning he should have done.

    2. If MJ approved of Tindall's (and other's) behaviour that's not good; if he didn't approve then he seemed unable to deal with it and that's not good - so it's lose-lose there.

    3. If the RFU didn't know what was required when appointing MJ then are they capable now? We don't want a 'Let's rush in ...... he'll sort it out tomorrow"

    4. I don't know why Tindall was in the elite squad anyway but having got there he let everyone down, including himself. Even so, the way it was dealt with, long after the event was appalling, the very worst of English management.

    5. When you are running a business in the real world sometimes you have to make the best of a manager who doesn't tick all the boxes and you accept that. When such manager is in trouble - and you running the business decide when this is, not him - you get yourself out of the office and get with him hands-on and give him the benefit and support of your presence and experience. Either the RFU didn't know England was in trouble (we supporters did!), or they didn't want to get involved, or they would rather see MJ hung out to dry than see England do well, or they wanted to see how things went to either share the glory (if it had gone right - but we supporters knew it wasn't going right) or not be associated with the failure if it went wrong or all or some of those things - appalling leadership at the RFU.

    6. So the answer is to get the Right person in at the top of the RFU, an exceptional leader; he doesn't even have to be part of the existing Rugby Establishment (although of course he has to know and love the game) and if he's the right person he'll put everything else right, including getting rid of those that are wrong. He'll even get guys who don't (at present) tick all the boxes but are basically good people performing.

  • Comment number 22.

    #21

    And which brilliant CEO or other person currently occupying this important decision-making role at the RFU will be appointing the Right Person?

    In my view, MJ's successor should not be made until the RFU structure is sorted and the executive personnel in place. Otherwise it will just be another car-crash!

  • Comment number 23.

    It is a bit like Groundhog day isn't it? Another coach, more failure, get rid of him then appoint another coach etc. etc. etc...
    The problem obviously lies at the top and that needs addressing before there is any hope for the richest rugby union in the world. Rob Andrew comes across as a fairly toxic person. Squeaky clean, 'nothing to do with me mate'. He has washed his hands and is busy running the 'huge organisation' in the happy, efficient way that is it obviously is at the moment.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think as Rob Andrew has managed to oversee the entire failure of all the England Coaches since the departure of Sir Clive Woodward, he should do the honourable thing and "fall on his sword". However seeing his incredibly patronising performance at the press conference, I think it's unlikely. I will however take on a charity sponsorship in his name, as I believe there is a donkey somewhere in need of help.

  • Comment number 25.

    Fact of the matter for me remains that Rob Andrew, Mike Ford, John Wells and Brian Smith have overseen the last 5-6 years of English rugby and we are (still) going backwards at senior level. 

    Whoopee-doos about the current crop of youngsters...with all due respect, chances are they'd fail as bad as Matt Tait, Anthony Allen, Danny Cipriani in the current 'senior' set up as the whole impetus and direction of the side is about as constant as the tides. We obliterated the Aussies at HQ with a beautiful display of attacking, running, positive rugby; and since then all of our players who were involved in that game have taken three steps back in their attacking play in the England set up. Best example: Ben Youngs. In those games in summer/autumn 2010 Ben was playing on the front foot, bossing people around and darting though holes for fun. Six nations - onwards this year he's been crabbing sideways, miss firing passes (especially to JW), and nary a quick-tap penalty was to be seen. This from the guy who week in week out at club was making a huge difference. We all saw how bad the Tigers suffered without him and Flood. 

    The negative set up at England has been the same since Woodward left, and what's been constant since then? That's what needs a change. Johnno was given no support by the Rfu at the RWC, all Andrew and his cronies did was shake thier heads and point fingers. When something goes right they are the first to claim credit (the young players aren't in the EPS, so not under RA's jurisdiction as far as I'm aware), but when things take a dive they bury their collective heads in the sand and blame eachother. 

    Tindall has been scapegoated, Johnno resigned...yet Andrew et all remain...funny how that works isn't it?

  • Comment number 26.

    How about, regardless of who is coach/manager/director, that they pick the best players in England who are actually playing well at the time. That would be nice.

  • Comment number 27.

    Did anyone watch the rugby club on sky tonight. I thought there was some cracking points made, first by Dean Ryan and thenClive Woodward. What about Woodward for rugby director, Ryan as forwards coach and mallender as backs coach. I think GR as scrum coach will stay as should Ford as defence ?

  • Comment number 28.

    @25: Croftalicious:
    "Whoopee-doos about the current crop of youngsters...with all due respect, chances are they'd fail as bad as Matt Tait, Anthony Allen, Danny Cipriani in the current 'senior' set up as the whole impetus and direction of the side is about as constant as the tides. We obliterated the Aussies at HQ with a beautiful display of attacking, running, positive rugby; and since then all of our players who were involved in that game have taken three steps back in their attacking play in the England set up. Best example: Ben Youngs. In those games in summer/autumn 2010 Ben was playing on the front foot, bossing people around and darting though holes for fun. Six nations - onwards this year he's been crabbing sideways, miss firing passes (especially to JW), and nary a quick-tap penalty was to be seen. This from the guy who week in week out at club was making a huge difference. We all saw how bad the Tigers suffered without him and Flood. "

    The point is about the youngesters is that there is something wrong with the coaching set up that doesnt allow them to progress with their tallent the right way. Players like Youngs are a good example. However there were questions over his fitness. Cockrill said after the WC that he shouldn't have palyed as he wasn't fit. I think some of the England coaches go for a basic game plan and don't like key players to deviate, so after months of training they feel they cannot stray from the plan (just my thought).

    However with reference to your comment about how badly the Tigers suffered without Youngs and Flood I think it is worth noting that it wasn't just their absence that was hurting them. They had a long list of players at the WC (Castro's return very noticable) and injuries (Staunton) that ment at times they were relying on 3rd choice players.

  • Comment number 29.

    As many others have stated I feel the problem is way more endemic than MJ, the problem is who else will take the job as it stands. I always felt that in appointing MJ that the RFU were trying to take an easy route in that everyone wanted him to do well, everyone wanted to think well of a legend but an experienced coach would have asked for more support and control. In other words he was set up to fail, no blame on him, but he is not a tactician and motivator like McGeechan or a manager like Woodward, he was an inspirational leader on the field(hated him when he played against us!) but this is not a job you can just walk in to. Who would take this job unless they know they have full control of what they do and wholehearted backing to implement it! Will the RFU have the attachments to give someone the reins and support them through the transitional period it will need?

  • Comment number 30.

    The rugby England played in the world cup was very poor. If you have forgotten watch the England v France game again. Someone has to be responsible. The manager?

    Off the pitch, England were the stand-out debacle of the cup. Someone has to be responsible. The manager?

    MJ put himself up on a tower. Wanting absolute responsibility and not wanting a mentor or an immediate boss.

    Well, when you do that and fail, sorry but you have to go. And he has. Top class move to acknowledge that you are not the man for the job.

    I'm not sure why everyone is blaming the RFU for this. Nobody forced him to take the job, nobody forced him to quit.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think this issues is being overly intellectualised.

    All this beard stroking and hand wringing is just complicating the issue.

    Sport, like rock n roll, isnt meant to be complicated.

    Approach the right man and lets win some games.

  • Comment number 32.

    sorry this "issue"

    obviously I cant spel

    Doh!

  • Comment number 33.

    The RFU has been shown to be dysfunctional and Rob Andrew has been part of that dysfunction for some considerable time. His replacement is a no-brainer as his presence just undermines any progress. Forget reviews, we all know the problem: the personnel at the top of the RFU. Just find the right top man and let him sort out his own board.

    Jonno’s decision might come back to bite the RFU – can we get a replacement who will be better? Certainly not if we waste more time with reviews. Jonno made mistakes but he was learning. And to those who say England haven’t improved under MJ – you have a problem with your memory. Since 2004 England have struggled just to be mediocre.

  • Comment number 34.

    I do agree that the RFU senior heirarchy needs sorting out for the good of the game as a whole in England. Richest Union in the world? Well obviously they keep the money for themselves, because precious little filters down to the grassroots. The continual in-fighting has to end so that whoever is in charge can get on with the job without all the distractions that causes.

    But - and I confess here I do not know how the team selection process works, or how the "style of play" we decide to use is agreed - the dismal on field performance is surely more down to the coach/manager and players than whatever is going on at the top. Carling's famous words several years ago have echoed through the ages, because the RFU heirarchy hasn't changed. And yet in the midst of that, we did manage to win a world cup, and for a while were the world's best.

    I've seen many "teams of the RWC 2011" lists - and no England players got anywhere near them. Despite being in internal team disarray (not to mention a coach who lost his way completely), 2 French players featured widely - Dusautoir and Harinorduquy, and they managed to get to the final. Where were the on pitch leaders for England? Obviously not in New Zealand, because either we don't have any, or they weren't picked.

    Who does the picking? If I were England coach and not allowed a free hand, I wouldn't have stayed in the job. So either MJ chose badly, or he allowed himself to be forced into choices not his own. Equally, who told him that England have to keep playing in such a dull tedious and unimaginative style? It might have worked once, but the rest of the world has moved on.

  • Comment number 35.

    Without going over old ground mentioned on previous blogs the RFU is a mess. How long ago was it Will Carling was talking about the 49 old farts running rugby and seemingly not much has changed. Its the right decision losing Johnson, he was nowhere near up to it.

    Time to give another ex-player a shot methinks. How about Tindall for the top job. Her maj in charge of the forwards, Zara's favourite horse for kicking coach and Prince Phillip for motivational speeches? The butler can hold their tracksuit tops during the anthems!!

  • Comment number 36.

    Oh and the household cavalry in charge of defence!!

  • Comment number 37.

    MJ is a top man! However he was not a good manager or coach.
    SCW has stated that he was let down by the RFU in respect he was allowed to do his job without mentoring. On the face of it, that sounds about right, but would MJ have accepted somebody telling him what he should do? He comes across as a stubborn conservative - why for instance did he continue to select his 'old' mates when it was obvious that they were not really up to the task? - and in no way the reactive visionary that is required for a SEE CHANGE. But in order to effectively change, experience is required so as to know how best to achieve the eventual goal, MJ of course lacked that vital experience factor and in all probability the personality to progress the English team.

    A lot of posts I have read have advocated an English replacement only. Madness IMO. The best available has to be sought regardless of where he comes from. Would Manchester United be the team they are today, if they had just looked at English? Interestingly, Mallet was no longer interested AFTER he had talked to the RFU. Hmm!

  • Comment number 38.

    Perhaps I am being overly cynical, but it seems strange to me that Martin Johnson waited till Shaun Edwards was definitely not available before he resigned. Was Johnson told by the powers that be to wait to prevent Shaun Edwards being considered? Perhaps Shaun was not interested, perhaps he doesn't like the look of Rob Andrew, or the idea of having that gentleman as his boss. Can't say as I blame him if he thinks like that. Perhaps Andrew didn't like the idea of an uppity ex-League player calling the shots. Who to replace Johnson? I don't know, but I reckon Johnson should replace Andrew, with Woodward at the top of the RFU. Johnson for whatever reason could not turn his undoubted on-field leadership qualities into similarly top level off-field leadership. More help from Andrew could well have enabled him to achieve such a transition. Perhaps he would be able to inspire performances from a team he was less directly concerned with selecting. Woodward is however a top administrator or presumably he would not have been selected to do what he is doing now.
    Jim Mallinder has been made favourite for the head coach job, Northampton are making noises of objection, hardly surprising, but unlikely to prevent Mallinder from making the move if he really wants it. As for the other coaching jobs, there are plenty of coaches out there in the English game, whether they are better than the present incumbents has to be decided. Perhaps it will be necessary for Mallinder or whoever it ends up being, to be a new brush and sweep clean. Jeremy Guscott's suggestion a few weeks ago of Darren Lockyer was out there on the edge of reason, and very unlikely to happen, but perhaps some extreme thinking is needed in the present circumstances. One proven motivator, admittedly from a different sport, is at present more or less jobless, and that's Brian Noble.
    To sum up, Andrew must go, if for no other reason his heartless and soulless performance at Martin's resignation press conference; Andrew truly showed how much help he was to Martin and how much help Martin's successor could expect. The whole leadership of the RFU must get itself into the 21st Century, and the best possible available coaches, preferably English, or from wherever if necessary must be appointed. Piece of cake, really.

  • Comment number 39.

    I reckon MJ should get a job coaching a super rugby franchise. He'd learn a lot, and it would be good to see him giving back something to NZ rugby that gave him so much.

  • Comment number 40.

    Loads of repetition here but what is for sure is that the next person that comes in needs to know the premiership inside out and the players within it, this is why someone like Mallinder or O'Shea would be a good bet. Selection will be the sureset test of any new person in charge as this will show their vision.
    As for Andrew his political nouse is good and a position in the RFU managing business and political issues seems fair enough but keep him away from personel issues and team tactics.
    Clear out the backroom staff as there are many more proven coaches out there that we could develop nationally and we should as our coaches development is just as important as out players.
    If Andrew sleects the next coach and stays close to the elite team - disaster.

  • Comment number 41.

    16.
    At 19:22 17th Nov 2011, Tregaskis wrote:

    #15

    I agree. Lions led by donkeys comes to mind!
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Who are the Lions you speak of?!

  • Comment number 42.

    Perhaps he meant Liontamers P in VG, to supplement the dwarf chuckers and clowns at the RFU and complete the comedy circus act which is the current england rugby team...

  • Comment number 43.

    @28 Daverichallen

    re. the younger players: Thats exactly what I meant mate. I just don't think I articulated it well. I think I was still near apoplexy about Rob Andrew's performance in that damned media conference...words failed me...and for those who have seen many of my posts, they'll know that I'm normally a wordy so-and-so!

    I didn't mean to imply that they wouldn't cut it due to lack of ability (George Ford; IRB Young Player...seems like a talented lad to me?!) I meant exactly as you've summarised: during the transition from bright young starlet to full-international something seems to go wrong with these players. Its down to the coaches (step forward Ford/Smith/Wells) to help aid the transition and step-up in intensity. If you ask me, what was (barely) good enough 4 years ago (re 2007 RWC finalists) isn't what's good enough now. Our coaching staff, and by extension the management team overlooking the coaching staff, haven't adapted to the ever changing landscape that rugby seems to have had to cope with these last few years: what with ELVs; breakdown interperetation changing week-to-week, ref-to-ref; 'tougher' rules about the tackle area; kicking from inside/outside etc. England's coaches have produced, almost uniformly, negative teams with very little (read NO) creativity in the backs behind a big, strong pack...it's not 2003 any more! We have exciting players, we exiled one of the brightest talents we've seen for a long time, when what was needed was a firm hand guiding him, helping him make the right decisions; not just saying: "no, you're wrong, you're rubbish, I'm not going to pick you, especially if you go to Australia!"

    I accept your point about Floody and Youngs, I know we lost more internationals than just the two of them.; I merely meant to imply that even during the autumn internationals last year, and the 6 nations (admittedly minus Castro and a couple of others then too), that the Tigers were awful. We couldn't rely on Grindall and Staunton to do Youngs and Flood's job, despite the fact that, aside from them, our backs were relativley unchanged.

    I liked post 26 too. Nice and succinct! ;) It won't work though...because this whole EPS thing dictates that the England staff only get to see these players during the 'international' periods. Clubs will be loathe to lose even more players (particularly their in-form players) as well as those in the EPS during these 'mandatory' periods that the England coaches get with the players to coach them to run sideways, fall over rucks, collapse mauls or whatever it is they're being coached

  • Comment number 44.

    @28 Daverichallen

    re. the younger players: Thats exactly what I meant mate. I just don't think I articulated it well. I think I was still near apoplexy about Rob Andrew's performance in that damned media conference...words failed me...and for those who have seen many of my posts, they'll know that I'm normally a wordy so-and-so!

    I didn't mean to imply that they wouldn't cut it due to lack of ability (George Ford; IRB Young Player...seems like a talented lad to me?!) I meant exactly as you've summarised: during the transition from bright young starlet to full-international something seems to go wrong with these players. Its down to the coaches (step forward Ford/Smith/Wells) to help aid the transition and step-up in intensity. If you ask me, what was (barely) good enough 4 years ago (re 2007 RWC finalists) isn't what's good enough now. Our coaching staff, and by extension the management team overlooking the coaching staff, haven't adapted to the ever changing landscape that rugby seems to have had to cope with these last few years: what with ELVs; breakdown interperetation changing week-to-week, ref-to-ref; 'tougher' rules about the tackle area; kicking from inside/outside etc. England's coaches have produced, almost uniformly, negative teams with very little (read NO) creativity in the backs behind a big, strong pack...it's not 2003 any more! We have exciting players, we exiled one of the brightest talents we've seen for a long time, when what was needed was a firm hand guiding him, helping him make the right decisions; not just saying: "no, you're wrong, you're rubbish, I'm not going to pick you, especially if you go to Australia!"

    I accept your point about Floody and Youngs, I know we lost more internationals than just the two of them.; I merely meant to imply that even during the autumn internationals last year, and the 6 nations (admittedly minus Castro and a couple of others then too), that the Tigers were awful. We couldn't rely on Grindall and Staunton to do Youngs and Flood's job, despite the fact that, aside from them, our backs were relativley unchanged.

    I liked post 26 too. Nice and succinct! ;) It won't work though...because this whole EPS thing dictates that the England staff only get to see these players during the 'international'  periods. Clubs will be loathe to lose even more players (particularly their in-form players) as well as those in the EPS during these 'mandatory' periods that the England coaches get with the players to coach them to run sideways, fall over rucks, collapse mauls or whatever it is they're being coached to do!

  • Comment number 45.

    Dammit! Silly BBC telling me theres a problem and to try again, only to upload the whole damn novel twice! sorry folks!

  • Comment number 46.

    Croftalicious. So much for keeping you comments succint and concise Croftalicious. Still glad you got it all off your chest. Good for you boy!

  • Comment number 47.

    O'Shea - there's a shout. Don't think he'll get it or would take it, but it's a great left field call!

    Dean Ryan?

    Mallinder still my favourite, but I reckon Eddie Jones has it nailed on atm

  • Comment number 48.

    @46 cyrmulondoner cheers bud. I certainly feel lighter! ;)

  • Comment number 49.

    Even if it was already written on the wall, losing MJ like this, is really sad for the guy... I just coulnd't stand seeing Andrew sitting smugly beside him in the press conference. I'd like to think MJ puts this behind him and shows all the guys positioned in the Twickenham ivory tower by taking on a role with a club... like to see him at the Pirates, but probably not... maybe Leicester at some stage...

  • Comment number 50.

    MJ gone - did the decent thing. Should have listened to Sir Clive in the first place. Andrew survives to screw up another appointment on behalf of and with the connivance of the blazers (Thomas et al) Watch this space. It's all depressingly repetitive. Karl Marx (is this a first for a rugby forum?) said 'History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce." The RFU seem to be stuck in farce mode rotten to the core.

  • Comment number 51.

    I think I must be the only person who is pleased that Johnson is gone. He had the ability to influence team mates as a player but was unable to exert much influence over the pampered pooches that are England. He lacked vision as was obvious from the play by rota style of England who seemed incapable of playing with their heads up to see what was in front of them. England scored a great try against Australia and he was the new messiah. A false dawn. England's bash away until you get a penalty style is so dull. You feel your life ebbing away. Never liked him as a player and have even less regard as a coach. If all the pampered pooches are giving ringing endorsements of Johnson why didn't they back him up on the field. Shame on them and everybody who thought he was the man to do the business.
    As regards the RFU and Rob Andrew I do not know the detail but I do know that they are a laughing stock. The world thinks that the RFU and England rugby are a joke and they continue to reinforce all those stereotypes.

  • Comment number 52.

    The last three England coaches under Andrew have all had similar success. The answer is not to keep changing coaches as the players are not quite there yet. What is required is consistency for a few seasons, and a more cohesive relationship with the clubs. Andrew is the big failure behind three hard done by, but hard working coaches. Kick Andrew out and give his job to Henry or Johnson.

  • Comment number 53.

    If Steve Borthwick's leadership qualities were indeed "questionable" then the question has been decisively answered by the outstanding performance of Saracens over three consecutive seasons. If the current England team had a scintilla of the team solidarity of Sarries then we wouldn't had suffered the national humilation of the world cup debacle.

    However, even such overwhelming evidence hasn't stopped some pundits from taking a swipe at Borthwick again. Shame on them.

  • Comment number 54.

    MJ was a fool to take the job. A great player and an icon but ....little coaching experience.....English rugby has gone backwards over the last four years as a result of the gamble taken. A new coach and support team will hopefully bring in a new team and get shut of some of the muscle bound freaks in the current elite set-up that purport to play the game. Lets start building straight away.....Come on England.

  • Comment number 55.

    The King is dead long live the KIng,
    English Rugby needs a Fresh start, so lets dispense with the services of the existing so called coaching team, namely Mike Ford, John Wells and Brian Smith,
    lets start rebuilding and picking some talented younger players,
    whoever is appointed as the New Coach let him pick his own group of coaching staff and not be micro-managed by the likes of Rob Andrew.
    Conor O Shea could be a Good choice,
    and when the new coach has been appointed they might like to turn off the M4 and head down the Dual carriageway towards Kingsholm, where they would see a lot of Good young talented English players,
    unlike some of the Ex Rugby League Boys and Southern Hemisphere Boys who would not have been selected for their National sides.
    Oh and maybe Sepp Blatter Sorry Rob Andrew will do the decent thing and resign.

  • Comment number 56.

    I watched the whole press conference, and summarise my reactions afterwards as follows. Johnson was dignified and showed a quality I admire, his humility. I agree with the comment above regarding Johnson's achiles heel, his loyalty to those in his charge, not only Borthwick, Wilkinson et al, but also in his coaching team.

    On the otherhand, I thought Andrews not only patronising, but arrogant. He will get his just deserts, but hopefully sooner rather than later. He would do us all a favour by falling on his sword now.

    Its easy to say who should go, more difficult to suggest who should take over, especially all the probs at the RFU. First of all we need a leader with two qualities, rugby in his blood, and proven business success. Andrew has the former but falls way short on the latter. Not sure about the Steele/Thomas duopoly, neither had the right credentials, and who elects these people anyway? Maybe the latter is the problem?

  • Comment number 57.

    Was it me or in the press conference did Rob Andrew seem like the child in class who points at his mate when the teacher turns to ask "who made that rude noise?". "It was Martin, Sir. Martin did it. I was just thinking about it but i didn't actually do anything."

    Oh well. MJ is gone:
    http://0verapint.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/out-with-the-old/

    Shame in one way, he had a role somewhere in the set up I feel. Just not manager. How many of the backroom coaching staff will remain?

 

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