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

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Tuesday October 11 2011

Sport is fascinating not only because of the fascinating games on offer, but because of all the politics.

The R(ugby) F(ootball) U(nion), i.e. the bunch of guys who run the English game, is in a state of great confusion just now.  From what I can tell, the essence of the problem is that nobody has sufficient authority to gather everyone else around in a big pow-wow, to sort everything out.  Instead, power struggle reigns, to establish who, if anyone, has, or might in the near future have, such authority.

While England’s players were preparing for their flights, the battle for control of the RFU was intensifying, with a growing number of clubs demanding major changes, and the Government demanding an explanation over what steps the governing body will take to restore faith in its handling of the sport.

The Government.  Please no, not the Government.  Don’t they have enough to fret about already?

Rob Andrew (a former England fly half), who is currently the Director of Something Or Other for the RFU, has said that he is going to conduct a review.  But he conducted an earlier review in 2007, and in any case, half of English rugby seems to be saying: Who the hell are you to conduct a review?  You’re one of the things that ought to be reviewed?  You are going to get together with Johnson to decide if Johnson should pack it in.  How about you packing it in, you pillock.  Or words to that effect.

I don’t mean to pick on poor old Rob Andrew.  Everyone else with any pretensions to authority in English rugby seems now to be in the same position, and enduring similar abuse.

It all rather reminds me of what Kumar Sangakarra said about Sri Lankan cricket, after they’d won the cricket world cup, and after all that TV money and “professionalism” squirted into their game, turning a bunch of amiable amateurs, both players and admin guys, into a shark tank of politico-financial frenzy.

I recently read a biography of Clive Woodward, and what came over very strongly was that whereas Woodward professionalised the running of the England team, the people running English rugby as a whole remained in a state of confusion.  Woodward hoped they’d sort themselves out after England had won the World Cup, but they just wanted to relax and enjoy it.  Woodward didn’t resign the England job immediately after winning the World Cup.  He resigned somewhat later than that, because he didn’t like the continuing muddled state of the RFU.  He thought the confusion might be temporary, and that maybe he’d provoked a cure for it.  When he realised it was endemic, he then gave up.

I agree with (regular commenter here) Antoine Clarke that Martin Johnson had insufficient experience as a coach to be the coach of England.  My understanding being: none, when he got the job.  In contrast, when Clive Woodward was appointed, he not only, like Johnson, had experience as a England player, but had already coached Henley, and then London Irish, both with considerable success.  And did he not also do some coaching for Leicester?  Plus, he had studied at Loughborough, which gave him an insight into all kinds of coaching philosophies and techniques.  He also had quite a bit of business experience under his belt, having started his own company, again with considerable success.  Basically, Woodward was ready for the job.  When he had a disappointing World Cup in 1999, it was rightly decided that he was on the right lines and deserved another go.  Johnson, on the other hand, having had a comparably disappointing World Cup in 2011, is not now believed capable of doing any better, and I am inclined to agree.

If I was Johnson, I’d jack in the England job, decide if I really wanted to be a rugby coach at all, and if I decided I did, go and coach the Twiddleborough Academicals for a few years, and get them promoted from Division 7 to Division 4 (or whatever they have down there), while making a living on the rugby public speaking circuit.  Then become coach of Reading or Coventry or some such place.  Then Harlequins or Leicester.  If that doesn’t appeal, get a normal job and have a normal life.  Plus the public speaking engagements, on the basis of him at least having captained a successful World Cup team.

Trouble is, Johnson has the same problem Woodward now has whenever he tries to do anything not totally boring, which is keeping himself out of the newspapers.

As for the larger problems of the RFU, of who should run the thing, and how, I have no idea, but am very interested.  So if you think you know about that and feel inclined to tell me what I should think about it, feel free.