Oh, for the silence of the lambs. It’s the buzzing of the bees I can’t stand. The past week of rugby seems to have brought on a swarm of them. Buzz, buzz, buzz. For a start, the Pumas would be sipping cocktails on the shores of the Falklands by now if Maggie had assembled a task force like the one the RFU has come up with to appoint a new coach.
We have a chairman, Ian Ritchie, who has a background in law, TV, soccer and tennis. Excuse me, but I have no idea how that qualifies him to know if Nick Mallett knows more about rugby than Stuart Lancaster. Ritchie will be assisted by Rob Andrew, hopeless coach and failed RFU stooge, who may have previous issues with one of the candidates.
Also on the panel is Sir Ian McGeechan, good man, decent manager, poor coach and someone who has previously rejected the top England position on grounds of Scottishness; Conor O’Shea, an Irishman doing a fine job with Quins, but who has limited knowledge of international coaching; and Kevin Bowring, an agreeable Welshman with a cosy RFU sinecure.
I think it was Gavin Mairs of the Telegraph who said there must be a joke in here about a Welshman, a Scotsman, an Irishman and two Englishman. The trouble is that the punch line will probably turn out to be not very funny.
McGeechan has already made favourable noises about Lancaster, which could be seen as prejudicial. The panel is too large and is heavy with RFU cronies and Premiership politicians and far too light on men of the world. As CEO, Ritchie should chair a panel with a Graham Henry or a Jake White to give an international perspective and a Clive Woodward or a Brian Ashton to look through rose tinted glasses. Three would be ample and two of them might know something about winning World Cups.
And why have refs stopped penalising violent play. In the game between the Blues and the Crusaders Michael Hobbs nearly removed an opponent’s head and only drew a penalty. Sam Warburton was in danger of having his neck broken and again not a yellow card in sight.
The World Cup was admirable in following through the IRB directive in eliminating dangerous play, but standards already seem to be slipping. Maybe the refs are fearful. Alain Rolland sends off Warburton and it costs him the World Cup final. Marius Jonker rightly sinbins some Hurricanes for dangerous play and cops a load of abuse.
And why do coaches insist on using the bench according to a predetermined schedule. Youngs, Flood and Stevens all contributed to England’s loss against Wales. It is obvious that Youngs needs to go back to his club to regain some poise. The scrum-half’s confidence is shot and he (rather than the maligned Lawes) was the major contributor to Wales’s try, running crossfield, shovelling ball and then failing to read the problem that was developing in front of him.
If you have a 9 like Aaron Smith (why is he not starting for the Highlanders) then the bench is a refreshing option. But the moment Dickson went off, the tempo of England’s game disappeared.
And another thing. Is there a rugby fan in the world who is not bored with scrum-halves like Youngs and Will Genia putting their foot on the ball and endlessly re-arranging their attack. The IRB needs to bring in a law post haste that obliges refs to tell scrum-halves to use it or lose it at rucks. Rugby is a continuous game and nines who want to discuss their portfolio before deigning to pass the ball should be binned for time wasting.
Buzz, buzz, buzz…