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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday February 27 2010

Incoming from Antoine Clarke, who is one of those annoying Englishmen who supports a different team to England in the Six Nations.  I remember how, at my Surrey prep school (the kind David Cameron went to - we played sports matches against Heatherdown), there were plum-voiced little twats who used to support Scotland.  Antoine at least has French ancestors and can speak French, but I still don’t approve.

Anyway, he just sent this in:

The below was going to be a comment on your blog, but I thought grief is better in private.

I note the category “Sport” and the date, but I see no reference to events in Cardiff yesterday or Rome and Twickenham today.

I added those links.

England’s defeat should not be considered a shock. The only match in the Six Nations 2010 not to go to world ranking form so far was in Rome today. A year ago, I thought the French coach, Lièvremont, was all over the shop with constant squad changing. Since then, he appears to have some coherent goals and the players seem to understand them most of the time.

I’ll be generous and suggest that there is time for Martin Johnson to get it all right. But I don’t think it will be. The robots weren’t malevolent this time, more like fluffy Daleks. Like Johnson, Lièvremont is not a respected coach who came through the ranks of club rugby, but he did coach the French youth team for a while so he knows the core of his squad (Parra and Trihn-Duc for example). Johnson looks like he wants to run onto the pitch and knock heads together, reminding me of a big tough version of Kevin Keegan (screaming “BELIEVE” to his team at Wembley while Germany calmly won 1-0).

I suspect that overcoaching is going on in the England camp. Either that or the players are too thick or scared of taking responsibility to use their initiative. I don’t think either of these is going to go away without some change of strategy or personnel.

If England let one in five tackles go like today (about 7 missed and 28 made) when they visit Paris, I shall be very, very happy.

Well we wouldn’t want to waste all those bon mots, would we?

Actually, England were so bad against Italy and before that so lucky against Wales that I had no great hopes of them doing that well today.  And I agree that Johnson is probably not a proper England coach, although I don’t really know, the way Antoine always thinks he does.

The comparison with Keegan is interesting, and I vividly remember that particular England Germany game, because that day I had lunch with vividly memorable Kristine Lowe, who said: so, presumably Brian, you are about to be a maniac, desperate for England to win, right?  Interestingly, no, I said.  I want England to lose, so that the England manager, who I consider to be wrong for the job, gets the sack.  Which they did and which he did.  Well, he sacked himself, for which I have always respected him.  Keegan’s strength was and remains motivating average teams to do well in rather dispiriting circumstances, where the other fellows are often rather unmotivated and dispirited also.  International teams aren’t average and don’t need any more motivating.  They are already well up for it, as are their opponents.  What they need is wise selection and clever preparation and good tactical guidance.  And let’s just say that there’s no reason to think that Johnson is in any way special at this.

The great coaching genius of England rugby in recent years has been Sir Clive Woodward, who did sports boffinry at Loughborough (actually delaying his international career to do this), then played for England with distinction, but then coached several clubs of varying size and grandeur before he got the England coaching job.  Not only did England win the 2003 World Cup under him.  They came amazingly close to winning the next one, because of the team ethic he left behind him.

But now, I agree with Antoine about Johnson, which means that I may support Scotland, if them beating England is what it takes to make Johnson jack it in.  Or be jacked in.

Time for a foreigner, perhaps?