It’s been a tough few months for England fans and things don’t look like they’re going to get much better anytime soon, here’s why…
1.Lack of consistency
Since the Sir Clive Woodward era, England haven’t had a single coach who has lasted more than one World Cup cycle, if that. This has led to a lack of consistency out on the pitch which culminated in England going into the 2015 World Cup with a centre combination who had never played a game together before.
It may be the done thing to remove a coach from their position after a perceived World Cup failure, but if there is one thing that history has taught us, is that coaches tend to bounce back well after World Cup disappointments. Just look at John Henry after 2007, and Clive Woodward after 1999 for evidence.
The current situation in English rugby is very much one of the tail wagging the dog, rather than vice versa. Clubs have an increasing amount of power in England, and are using it to make decisions that suit their own needs, rather than those of the national teams. If you look at the most successful international sides in recent years, the opposite has been true.
Unfortunately there seems to be no evidence of this trend reversing, if anything clubs are becoming more dominant. The current situation has all the hallmarks of English football 20 odd years ago when the Premier League was formed. You only have to look at the England football team now to see how that ended up…
Closely linked to the club power issue, is one of whom has the ultimate say over players. Unfortunately the power seems to sit with the clubs who can dictate player training schedules, and are use international availability as a bargaining chip to ensure the RFU makes agreements in accordance with clubs needs.
In New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and even to an extent Wales, clubs have ultimate control over their key internationals and can dictate training schedules, conditioning programmes and even playing style to an extent. This allows them to build a team working towards one common goal, where as in England players train for their club needs and have to adapt for internationals.
4.Focus on £££’s
The RFU may be the wealthiest union by some way right now, but that financial success clearly isn’t transferring into results out on the pitch. For all of their financial clout, England have failed to field a tournament winning side in five years now, and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon with the way things are going.
Instead of focussing on youth development, and providing players and coaches with the tools to success, the RFU are instead placing emphasis on commercial partnerships and extortionate ticket prices. Obviously having a financially healthy union is to the benefit of everyone, but this should not come at the expense of the team’s success.
Unlike most of the other top sides around, England have continually failed to implement contingency strategies for when things don’t go to plan. Unlike New Zealand who groomed Steve Hansen under Graham Henry for a number of years, or Wales who are giving Rob Howley invaluable experience under Warren Gatland, England have nothing.
They now have the opportunity to successfully implement such a strategy under Eddie Jones and must grasp it with both hands now. Equally, for such an approach to work, the RFU need to be prepared not to throw the baby out with the bathwater should things not go to plan in 2019, and persist with at least some of the coaching team through in 2020 and beyond.