Now is not the time for rash decisions by the RFU, but it’s clear the current England set-up needs a major shake up after their World Cup failure.
There are clear issues throughout the set-up with both players and coaches failing to live up to expectation meaning it’s clear something needs to change. To get the ball rolling, these seven changes could be exactly what the current England side needs;
1.Move Stuart Lancaster to a development role
There’s no doubting that during Lancaster’s reign he has had a massively positive impact on a number of areas in the current England set-up. There is now a huge pool of young talent who have earned their first caps under Lancaster and now look ready to take over the reigns from some of the current playing squad.
The conditioning of the players has also been exceptional, whilst he has done a fantastic job of restoring the sides off-field reputation after the embarrassments of 2011. For these reasons alone Lancaster needs to be kept on as part of the England squad, however I can’t help but feel he needs to step aside from the head coach role.
2.Bring in a genuinely world class Head Coach
If you look at the current top teams in world rugby, they all have head coaches with impressive coaching CV’s that have seen them cut their teeth at club level before stepping up and taking on top international roles. Many of them have also coached abroad to give them a much wider understanding of the game, and how it is played around the world.
A coach of the caliber of Eddie Jones (who has hinted he may be interested in the role) is exactly what England need for the next four years. This will give them the chance to take the next step in their international development and perhaps begin to compete with the likes of New Zealand, Australia, Wales and Ireland on a regular basis.
3.Hire a group of potential future English Head Coaches
There are a host of potential future English Head Coaches out there right now, and given the current coaching set-up is clearly in need of changing, then now is the perfect opportunity. These untested coaches would then be given the chance to learn and develop under the new Head Coach before potentially taking on the top job after the 2019 World Cup.
The likes of Jonny Wilkinson clearly has a lot to offer and could make a fantastic backs or skills coach, whilst Martin Johnson could return as a forwards coach, or we could even see Steve Borthwick come in after his fantastic exploits with Japan this year. These former players would also bring with them the experience and knowledge that comes with winning a World Cup.
4.Encourage English coaches to take jobs abroad
The temptation is to try and keep coaches like Mike Ford, Rob Baxter and Jim Mallinder in the Premiership where they are doing such stellar jobs. If any of them are to become successful international coaches in the future however they need to look at spending a few years in one of the SANZAR nations and learning their trade.
Look at the likes of Steve Hansen, Michael Cheika, Joe Schmidt, Eddie Jones or Warren Gatland. Each of them spent several years coaching club or national sides abroad before taking on their current head coach position. It has clearly stood them in good stead given the success we are now seeing for their respective sides.
5.Shake up the RFU management structure
After overseeing two fairly disastrous World Cup campaigns, it is clear that there are certain members of the current RFU senior management team who need to be seriously looked at. Without pointing out and specific individuals, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there are certain individuals within the organisation who aren’t up to the task.
If England are to shake things up on the pitch, then they need to ensure the team behind them off it are also the best in class. It is vital that whoever comes in is capable of making the right decisions regarding the coaching team and future approach of the RFU to rugby in general as the World Cup has been a step backwards rather than the leap forwards many expected.
6.Cut the selection bulls**t
One of the key talking points in the lead up to the World Cup was the players who weren’t selected by England. From Manu Tuilagi and Dylan Hartley to Nick Abendanon and Steffon Armitage, there was plenty of debate as to whether your current club or disciplinary record should count against you when it comes to international selection.
The Wallabies have proven that by taking a sensible approach to international selection decision you can have the best of both worlds. Players weren’t excluded for off-field issues, whilst players who have served their country well were eligible for selection after reaching a certain number of caps. This same approach could make a huge difference for England.
7.Mend relationships with the fans
This weekend, thousands of England fans will turn up to the Etihad in Manchester to watch their team play out a dead rubber against Uruguay having shelled out up to £250 for tickets. Not only will fans feel totally ripped off having paid such extortionate prices for the tickets, but they will be well aware England’s first game out of London in years will be a damp squib.
Whilst fans will always turn up to games and buy the shirts, there will be a large section of disillusioned fans who will need to be tempted back. Whether the RFU look to offer World Cup ticket holders some kind of incentives for future England matches, or they look at other ways of mending relationships, it’s clear something needs to be done to get the nation back on board.