by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
Last weekend I was asked by the English rugby media who I thought should be appointed the next England coach. Watching the appointment process unfold, it reminded me of one of the funniest films I have seen about the appointment of the England Soccer Manager, Mike Bassett England Manager. Now I am not suggesting for one minute that Stuart Lancaster is anything like Mike Bassett, but internal discussions at Twickenham must have covered much of the ground covered by the Football Association in the film.
When Ian Richie, newly appointed CEO of the RFU in England announced last week that he would be appointing a new coach by the end of the Six Nations, then before the South Africa tour in June and maybe even after that, it became clear that the stakes were rising and the decision was becoming more challenging.
Following the departure of Martin Johnson after a troubling World Cup in England, Stuart Lancaster, the England Saxons Coach, was appointed to the England coaching role on an interim basis while the RFU searched for a more ‘suitable’ replacement! With 3 wins in their last four Six Nations, Lancaster has made a pretty good fist of it and has really ‘put the cat amongst the pigeons’.
Its an interesting dilemma for the new CEO, surely its a decision that on the surface looks pretty straight forward, just choose one guy over another – but this river runs deep in England coaching circles.
When Martin Johnson was appointed, it was largely media driven, big name, great guy, big rugby reputation but no coaching experience – a small detail in the scheme of things at the time, but a crucial factor in the end. No one wanted the guy to fail, but the coaching community was pretty disappointed that a man with no coaching experience took the top job.
The interim coach, Stuart Lancaster, has been around the coaching scene for some time, no one could quite work out how being relegated from the Premiership coaching Leeds actually qualified him for the England Saxon’s job, but he was, and he did a solid job. Now he’s the interim coach of England, and doing another solid job, there’s a cry to appoint him in a full time role.
The initial dancing around seems to be over and there’s only a couple of candidates left on the floor. Lets take a look at how the process works. A job becomes available and the media put forward their shortlist, Sir Clive Woodward rules himself in, out, shake it all about, Nick Mallett, Eddie Jones and Jake White follow, they rule themselves in, then out, and no one really knows if they are interested or not. Then there are those who are actually out of work and looking for a job such as John Kirwin and Eddie O’Sullivan, and then anyone seen within a 10 mile radius of Twickenham at the time, Wayne Smith and Graham Henry to name just two this time around join the list.
One by one, the list shortens, some already have jobs, others state family reasons, and Eddie O’Sullivan and John Kirwin were ruled out due to lack of international experience (really?).
If that’s the case, the English candidates have no chance, lack of international experience would apparently rule out Stuart Lancaster the interim, and of course every other domestic option. Talking of domestic options, has any considered that there may be better domestic options than Stuart Lancaster? Interesting thought, I would put Dean Ryan, Jim Mallender, Dean Richards and others on that list. In fact, if they are better than Lancaster, who has a 75% win rate at the moment, then maybe the RFU should start to look a little closer to home. Has it actually occurred to anyone that England may be creating some outstanding coaches, but placing a ceiling on their development by not giving them the opportunities that others have received in their homeland such as Mallett, Jones, White, Smith and others?
So what are the RFU waiting for? If England lose this weekend at home to Ireland, I reckon Mallett gets it, if they win Lancaster gets it, and maybe that will create opportunities for more homegrown coaches? Whatever way it goes, there’s certainly plenty at stake this weekend!
With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
CLICK HERE to read more on Nigel Melville
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