Chance for a fresh start
November 24, 2011
Martin Johnson's reign as England coach came to a sorry end © Getty Images
A lot of people have condemned those who leaked the findings, but I think they've done the RFU a favour. They have helped everyone outside of the RFU see what utter turmoil it is in and what a change of culture there has been in the professional player. This will help England start again.
The report has brought the game into disrepute more than anyone has ever done while drinking on tour. The report itself, whilst condemning, is also the start of a bright dawn. The RFU can't come out of this in its current state - the RFU is a powerful beast in world rugby but with so many structures in place, it will never progress. And there are some good people at the RFU who are being tarnished by the way it is run.
Rob Andrew has come in for criticism recently and he is a political, corporate expert. He will do everything he can to secure himself in his position. He will make sure everyone else is accountable and will do everything he can to keep his job.
For my money, I don't see what he has done in the five years. I have got no idea what he has done. And for him to say "Oh look at the Under-20s, they have gone on to great things in the World Cup" - that has got sod all to do with it … that is down to the clubs who have handled their players well.
The report also focussed on the coaches and I think some of the criticism was valid, especially regarding John Wells and Brian Smith. The thing about the report is, you know it is players talking honestly as they gave the information confidentially. From the outside, we could see that the players had no attacking structure for the last three years and lacked a development plan. It was obvious. The players knew it and strangely I don't know why Smith didn't see it.
So what next? England need to get together a new coaching team and this has given them the opportunity to draw a line in the sand and move forward. Jim Mallinder has put his name forward but I have seen many other candidates. Question is, is he a pioneer or a safe option? At the moment there is no one who can hire them apart from the management board and after this, they should be disbanded as well.
I would recommend removal of most of the board. I would bring in a proper corporate structure - a chief executive, operating officers, marketing directors etc. It needs to be dynamic and flexible, but the current structure where people sit on the board alongside their role in other businesses is ludicrous. It's like saying the BP board should report to Shell! It doesn't make sense. Everyone has an ulterior motive, and that leads to infighting and poor decision making.
However, the positive thing to emerge from the leak is that it was the old players who were to blame. The younger ones were working hard and not going out to get drunk, and yet they were being criticised for it, and bullied by the older first-teamers. That goes on in rugby, but the younger bunch of players seem to be not as bothered about the endorsement contracts and the money grabbing antics. So, with that in mind, the future with England's younger generation looks promising.
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Austin Healey is Lead Analyst for ESPN Rugby
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