News   |    March 21st, 2022

ALL CHANGE PLEASE

Every supporter of every national team or club wants their team to be successful but most accept they probably won’t and turn up to support the team regardless. Above all fans want to see the national team or their club progressing and heading in the right direction and if the level of entertainment is high then so much the better. 

The England football team is ticking all the right boxes at present. Under Gareth Southgate there has been sustained progress and they go in to the World Cup in Qatar later this year with a realistic chance of success.

Southgate has developed a great team spirit and a positive culture as well as a way of playing that the players have bought into. Importantly he is overseeing a production line of young talent that bodes well for the future.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the England Rugby Team. I wrote some weeks ago of the direction in which I thought the team was heading and sadly that has proved to be the case. The 23-13 win by France over England secured Les Bleus the Six Nations Championship for the first time since 2010.

England Rugby seems to be heading nowhere and with the resources it has at its disposal then surely now is the time for the powers that be to have a re-think and to change the direction of travel.Eddie Jones has been in charge of the team for 6 years now and has talked regularly about the need for learning curves but that message is starting to wear thin.

Having come up short in Japan in 2019, the belief that everything will simply come together for the team at the next World Cup does not look realistic. Not so long-ago France looked to be heading nowhere but now they look the team to do well at the next World Cup and home advantage will play a part. Just as with the England football team and after years of public indifference, this French team have won back their nation’s hearts and minds. They have developed a clear identity and playing style. Their players all speak well and intelligently in much the same way as England’s footballers now do.

England had the ball five times in the opening five minutes and disappointingly they kicked it every time which says a lot about the outdated tactical approach. When Jones undergoes the post-mortem this week, he will see a team suffering from an identity crisis. England started this campaign with a lot of talk about new, enterprising style of play but it is not in evidence.

They promised a lot to rugby fans but they ended the tournament with a backwoods looking strategy to kick their way to victory. It felt like the clock had been turned backwards. The much lauded Marcus Smith kicked the ball away with regularity. The most successful teams in English rugby as in football all have a clear long-term identity and style.

The RFU has a decision to make and in my view, it is time for a change in management and a new approach.

Image: EPA

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management.

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