Stuart Lancaster’s honeymoon at Twickenham was short lived. Following his appointment on March 29th he has shown his inexperience and naivety in failing to secure the services of both Andy Farrell and Wayne Smith. Once might have been unlucky, twice raises some serious questions.
The success of any business in recruiting the best talent is driven by a number of factors, none more important than the ability of the CEO or senior employee to present a compelling opportunity to the candidate. At a senior level the compensation package is only one part of the equation. The position must offer an opportunity for personal growth and will invariably provide significant and exciting challenges. Most importantly there must be a management team with the charisma and experience to convince the candidate to take the leap of faith that may be required to make the move.
Most senior corporate recruiting is conducted by stealth. Such an approach allows discussions to take place out of the public glare and is invariably more likely to be successful.
Lancaster’s first mistake was offering the position to Andy Farrell who is a long way from being ready for such an appointment. England rugby followers should have breathed a sigh of relief that Farrell declined the offer. However, having suffered the indignity of being rejected by Farrell, nothing was more important than getting the appointment right next time.
Wayne Smith was then identified by Lancaster as “the standout candidate” to replace Farrell. The effort to recruit Smith was extensively reported in the media, including Lancaster’s trip to South Africa. While accepting that it can be difficult to operate discreetly in the world of international sport, this public approach was flawed from the outset.
The relationship between the media and the English rugby team plumbed new depths at the world cup. While it is important that Lancaster and Ian Ritchie build bridges with the fourth estate, such recruitment efforts should take place behind closed doors.
What is worrying for England is their failure to attract one of the top names in world rugby to one of the most attractive positions in the game. Those who were critical of Lancaster’s appointment have been given further reason to be sceptical. It is incumbent upon Ian Ritchie to ensure that there are no further embarrassing recruitment gaffes. Having appointed Lancaster, the CEO is clearly going to have to mentor and manage him in a way that should be unnecessary with a head coach. A tough tour to South Africa awaits and Lancaster is already on the back foot.