Imagine, if you will, a serious murder has taken place and details of the crime are leaked to the press. In fact it happens all the time. Every decent crime reporter has a few police sources. But what happens next is not a full scale Scotland Yard investigation into the leak – no, the coppers actually get on with trying to solve the murder.
How ludicrous is it then that the RFU is to spend money (that could be going into funding our junior clubs) on an expensive firm of investigators. Detectives with pricey electronic gadgets will conduct a ‘forensic’ enquiry into who leaked the ‘confidential’ report of all the England players’ World Cup gripes. Jeff Blackett, a man who becomes more pompous by the year, called it “the most serious leak the union has ever suffered.”
Balls. The RFU has suffered far bigger leaks over the year. I used to live in a house that was permanently under water from all the leaky RFU people who were talking to my dad. This is just one more leak among many and one that provides a public service. The people of Albion, whose Sky subscriptions and debentures and ticket money pay for the national team, have every right to know why England was so appalling.
The money would be far better spent on a two day consultation with Graham Henry, because the gulf between England’s approach and New Zealand’s is too wide to measure. But as the RFU seems too incompetent to spend its money on people who know what they are talking about – Henry or Clive Woodward for example – here is some free advice.
Head Coach: Martin Johnson was described as too loyal and surrounded by the wrong people. That is what happens when you appoint a recently retired ex player. They are too close to people. There is not one World Cup winning coach who fits Johnson’s profile.
Selection: the accusation was that players were picked on reputation. The All Blacks picked on form. Right at the last minute Israel Dagg was promoted ahead of Mils Muliaina, a full back with 99 caps. The whole back three was changed because Muliaina and Hosea Gear were no longer cutting it. In contrast the selection of England’s back three of the pack was a joke.
Coaches: Brian Smith was accused of lacking understanding, schoolboy tactics, being boring and uninventive, out of his depth and always changing his mind. Compare him to Wayne Smith, always challenging the players, never afraid to work on the basics (another charge levelled at England) and a brilliant communicator. Which Smith would you rather have? John Wells was described as archaic and there was no adapting to the opposition. The All Blacks beat France because Steve Hansen designed a lineout that exploited a French weakness. England lost because they had an attacking lineout on the French line in the first minute and they turned over the ball. Coaches can make the difference between winning and losing.
Team talks: Johnno gave the team talks and guess what, they were full of effing and blinding. Graham Henry used to give the All Blacks a pep talk until Tana Umaga pointed out that nobody listened. So Henry stopped and left it to the players.
Discipline: Johnson’s senior players were accused of missing meetings and leading the drinking culture. Henry’s senior players led a management group that was in charge of discipline. I didn’t agree with their decision to ban twitter, but Henry recognised that in today’s culture you have to empower the players.
Captain: From Steve Borthwick to Mike Tindall to Lewis Moody, Johnson always picked captains who were not guaranteed a place in the team. Henry gave the captaincy to one of his two best players. So when McCaw was injured, his authority was undermined. When Moody was injured, the players were aware that Tom Wood should have been in the team.
Media: Henry made a huge effort to smile through the World Cup and to make his players friendly and accessible. England instituted a ‘lockdown’ and ‘us against them’. Madness. It has never worked and never will, but here is the RFU engaged in doing exactly the same thing.
The charges against England from their own players go on and on. They were immature and greedy, the man management was terrible, the coaching was inept, there were no game plans. Oh well, never mind, the RFU has started an enquiry into leaks. That should make England world beaters again.