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Sunday, August 14, 2011

14th August - I heard it through the grapevine

I was alone among my friends when Johnno was appointed in thinking that it was an absolutely stupid decision done to keep Rob Andrew in a job. Everyone thought that being a World Cup winning captain would get us back up there. I had my doubts. He hadn't cut his teeth by coaching or managing a Premiership team. Hell, he'd not even managed Burton's U8's side. He had no coaching qualifications, something which the RFU insist on for every level of rugby except it seems for the top team. Another doubt stems from a question I asked Dan Hipkiss and Andy Goode when they came to the club for a Q and A session just after the World Cup. The question was 'Much is made of Johnno's leadership qualities, what does he say in the changing room hat lifts the players and gets them to follow him?' The answer was that he says very little as he leads by example. At the time Woodward's skills were being underplayed, as just being the logistical genius that got the conditions right for the players. I don't think that is the right traits for a manager/coach. You can leave the motivation to the captain, but there is also a role to play to sort out when things aren't quite going your way. Like yesterday. A definition of insanity was to keep doing the same thing to achieve the result. Bashing away at a resolute Welsh defence, which really didn't look under too much treat, as it was only a matter of time before the bosher knocked on. 87% of the territory and possession for the same amount of points as Wales. So half time would have been an ideal time to talk through with the team, put plan B into place, change a few players, but there was no sign of it in the second half.

I am not convinced by his support coaches either. Wells and Ford were two of the coaches which presided over the Argentina game in 2006, where the players tactics and general fed upness of the fans saw more people in the bars than watching the game. They were also two of the coaches for the last World Cup, where it is well documented that the players rebelled against the tactics following a 36-0 drubbing (we were lucky to get 0) by South Africa. Sheer character and leadership by the players got England to a Final. I await the autobiographies of those players and the present crop to see what went on. Johnno stuck with them, rather than get his own team in - again probably because of loyalty. In life, sport and business, hard decisions have to be made and sometimes people you like and trust have to be let go. Johnno hasn't showed this at all. As a captain, you are loyal, you don't make the hard decisions - that's the coach's job, in this area he hasn't stepped up.

He stuck with under-performing players until the decision was made for him. Borthwick, Armitage, Monye, Jonny, Payne, all continued to get played, but in each case the players that came in - Lawes, Foden, Ashton, Cipriani (and then Flood) and Cole have made an incredible difference. Meanwhile, one cap wonders, who possibly needed a second chance - Allen, Armitage (round one), Narraway were never given a second chance if they under performed.

I await someone to explain why Tindall (Know fondly as Trundle) is still there. He never was the best player, in terms of skills, but could break a line. Now he plays with Oven Gloves on, looks for contact so he doesn't (can't) run too far and passes like a prop. Yet he's likely to be captain in the World Cup campaign if Moody doesn't recover. (And he's not even first choice for his club anymore).

In his time away from the game, the power game is no longer in the ascendancy. Contact is only there to set up the runners - from deep not flat, like yesterday. New Zealand have big players - Ma'a Nonu, Sivavatu, but they are in to pick a line and because of their speed. Pace not power is the tenet in the current vain, and 'space not face'. Manu Tuiliagi is a big guy, but he can pick a line and is also fast, where as Matt Banahan is just big, no pace looks for contact and has doubtful skills.

With a strength in depth in the back row, 7 aside, why do we persist with the pod system and clogging up the midfield with one out props taking the ball into contact when we are not putting enough bodies in there? Why have we sent all the backs with something different home? (James Simpson Daniel, David Strettle) I am sure that Sharples will follow soon.

Johnno seems to like 'stalwarts', and has picked a team in his image. I want to be excited not bored to death.

Cipriani, who like Henson is a Marmite like player, is in exile. Brought back too soon from an injury, but no fly half has made the backs run like that game against Ireland in 2008. He needed careful management,which he has expressed his frustration at tactics, so he is unlike to ever play for Johnno.

I will support the players in New Zealand, but I would also like them to entertain me. England aren't good enough to win it this time, so let the players have a blast gain some experience for a serious challenge in 2015.

I heard it through the grapevine, as I think that there will be some fall out from this that will hit the press.

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