I didn’t like Mike Tindall, was never overly convinced by Martin Johnson and didn’t think England could attack their way through a wet paper bag, let alone the 16 stone of muscle that is Ma’a Nonu. However, the way the current England team had been treated by the ******s (insert own expletive here) up at the RFU is shocking.
Tindall’s fine and ban smack of cowardice as the bigwigs simply seem to have picked the most expendable of England’s miscreants (and a loyal servant to English rugby for many years) and casually ended his international career early. I hope Tindall wins his appeal and then announces his immediate retirement. Manu Tuilagi, James Haskell and Dylan Hartley could all have received equally strong punishments but as the ‘future’ of English rugby the RFU have flapped and spluttered and handed down suspended fines.
As for poor old MJ, he was pretty shafted from the beginning. When he was appointed, those at the top should have been aware that they were throwing him in at the deep-end, that expectations were high and that his two predecessors had come and gone in the blink of an eye. They needed to be careful and supportive. Instead, they let him have his pick of coaches (an area where he clearly needed some help), failed to adequately back him up in times of crisis and, by the end barely seemed to care two fu…um…figs about whether he stayed or went.
I thought many of his selection choices were un-wise and too biased in favour of his old mates, but why didn’t someone have a quiet word in his shell-like? Why did Rob Andrew, in New Zealand at the time of the non-story that was Dwarf-Gate, not murmur quietly: ‘You need to make an example of someone right here and now,’ instead of waiting a month and then going over MJ’s head? The simple fact is that it seems they didn’t care.
As for Brian Smith-clearly something had to give in the coaching department. The spectacular tactic of ‘run in straight lines, get tackled and then either a) lose the ball or b) lose the ball’ was a bit of a no-go really. Engand used to pride themselves on being a scrum-masters but in recent years have been shoved around the park by just about everyone, including my local under-sixes team. Oh, and we can’t tackle. Also, someone (either the forwards coach or defence coach) should have screamed ‘OPEN SIDE FLANKER’ at MJ for the last three years until he picked someone to compete with the likes of…Actually, you know what? I’m not going to name all the fabulous number 7s out there at the moment, it will just depress me too much.
But the point I am trying to make is this. The fact that everyone sees the need to jump ship about six week after the world cup suggests that something funny is going on. Either the RFU should have grown a pair and fired them all months ago, or they should have gone directly after the RWC. The fact it’s taken this long suggests that very muddled messages are coming down from upon high. When we add in the mysterious cases of John Steele, Martyn Thomas and Leak-Gate, English rugby begins to look spectacularly shoddy.
Coaches like Graham Henry and Nick Mallett, men at the top of their profession who have either dealt with huge amounts of pressure, criticism and expectation (Henry) or dragged a frankly crap team up into contention with the big boys (Mallett) should be fighting each other to get as prestigious a position as coach of the English rugby team. Instead they have made noises suggesting that gouging out their eyes with rusty spoons (or at least doing repeated suicide tequilas) would be vastly preferable. It’s a shocking state of affairs and things need to be done. I’m not sure what, but I’m damn sure I know a good deal more than most of the morons down Twickenham way. And that makes me cross.