Fitzpatrick: pick a team not a captain
Monday 30 January 2012
Deciding on who should lead his new-look England out of the Murrayfield tunnel on Saturday is an issue that should not long trouble Stuart Lancaster, according to Sean Fitzpatrick, a man who knows more than most about captaining an international side.
The art of selecting a captain has long divided northern and southern hemispheres. In cricket and rugby the notion on either side of the Tasman Sea has, by and large, been to choose the team and then the man to lead it.
"I wouldn't be too worried about the captain," said Fitzpatrick, who led New Zealand in a record 51 Tests. "What Stuart Lancaster has to do is pick the best players and from that the captain will stick out.
"In the Six Nations you can't afford to carry a player who is not worthy of his position purely because you think he is a better captain. The Hartleys and the Robshaws of this world have to earn their position on the team. You have to pick the best players, because you can't go into a competition against world-class players without your best guy in that position."
Fitzpatrick received the All Blacks captaincy in 1992 in a situation not altogether dissimilar to the one England find themselves in now. New Zealand had emerged from a disappointing World Cup – by their standards, a semi-final defeat to Australia was considered well below par – and turned to a new coach, Laurie Mains, who instigated a clear-out of the ranks.
"They shredded a number of players but they also gave them the option of being willing to change," said Fitzpatrick. "They said to me 'If you are willing to change then we will give you another opportunity' and I said 'Yes'. A few guys didn't change and they got cast aside, or worse still weren't even given the opportunity to change."
That is a fate facing a number of the players involved in England's disastrous World Cup campaign, but the new regime should beware who they discard in the rush to move on. "Look at Nick Easter – he's the best No 8 in the country but he's not been given a chance," said Fitzpatrick. "Sure, he's 33 years old. Will he be around for the next World Cup – who knows? But look at Brad Thorn – 37 and he won a World Cup. Easter's in great nick. He didn't have a great World Cup but at the moment he's playing his best rugby. You need a balance and that's what the All Blacks had at the World Cup. They had youth and experience and you need that experience."
Experience should also count when it comes to deciding on the long-term incumbent for the England coaching job. "Wayne Smith is an outstanding candidate and it amazes me no one has picked up John Kirwan, in terms of coaching ability. But in terms of being able to deal with everything that goes on off the field as well, it is Nick Mallett."
More immediately, Fitzpatrick regards England as only fourth favourites to claim the Six Nations crown. He said: "Look at the World Cup and you would say Ireland, Wales and France are the leading sides. The interesting thing is going to be seeing how Wales kick on from the World Cup."
Sean Fitzpatrick is a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, a unique association of 47 sporting legends. The Laureus World Sports Awards take place at Central Hall, Westminster on 6 February.
Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs posts bizarre video of his Miami holiday being invaded by an iguana
Raheem Sterling to Manchester City: Winger to report for Liverpool training on Monday but Reds braced for third City bid this week
Women's World Cup 2015: England secure third place as they beat Germany in extra time with penalty by Fara Williams
Toby Alderweireld to Tottenham: Atletico Madrid 'accept £11m bid' as Spurs beat Southampton to defender
Alexis Sanchez 'will miss start of Arsenal season' after Chile go all the way in Copa America
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 3 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 4 Motorists taunt suicidal woman on bridge and tell her to 'get on with it'
- 5 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture