Jonathan Davies: Don't make coaches pay for players' failures

Laying it down to Andy Robinson is all too easy
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Both England and Wales came out of the Six Nations tournament with big coaching problems - Wales because they haven't got one and England because many don't want the one they have got.

Coaches can't escape criticism when things go wrong, but many of the failings we have just been witnessing have been due to players not doing what they should be doing.

In Wales's case that involved them getting dragged into a situation they should have stayed well away from. The only place for player power is on the field.

As for England's under-achievement, laying it all down to Andy Robinson is all too easy and lets the players off the hook. You cannot squander that many scoring opportunities at international level and then say it was all due to the coaching.

Robinson placed great faith in his forwards and there was no reason why he shouldn't - forwards still win you matches. But your backs have to make the most of the platform built by the forwards. They failed to do so partly because the service from the rucks and mauls was too slow and partly because the centres, Mike Tindall and Jamie Noon, were too similar. Robinson's assistants, Phil Larder and Joe Lydon, have been getting stick, but if players can't make the most of a simple three-to-two overlap, how is it the coaches' fault?

It was a lot easier when players such as Mike Catt and Will Greenwood were around, and in Jason Robinson they had a player who could cut the line when things weren't happening elsewhere. England's back play will improve dramatically if Jonny Wilkinson and Olly Barkley get fit and back to top form.

Scrum-half is a problem but I would still go for Matt Dawson and I would also consider Austin Healey, who is fit and offers something different. At full-back, Mark Cueto is worth a try to bring him more into the game, and if Mathew Tait carries on the form he showed in the Commonwealth Games, England's backs will look a lot healthier.

It would be sensible if Clive Woodward was recalled to take control at the top, but England need the right reinforcements on the pitch and not major surgery on the coaching team.

The surgery has already happened in Wales - and experts have not been doing the operating. What they have to do now is staunch the bleeding.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Mike Ruddock's departure, the whole episode reeked of bad management. Wales would have been hit anyway by injuries and a lack of strength in depth, but at least they looked promising against France and have discovered one or two good prospects, particularly in scrum-half Mike Phillips.

The decision of Scott Johnson to return to Australia was inevitable. As well as he did as skills coach he had either to go for the top job permanently or take a job with the juniors. He couldn't stay as he was under a new coach. I was disturbed at his unhealthy relationship with the players. The best teams don't get that sycophantic about their coach - he was more like Paul McKenna. Now the players can get back to reality. They play for their country, not one man.

As the search for a new coach continues I would be happier if the regional coaches were to play some part in the choice. Gareth Jenkins, however, may be one of the candidates, as will Phil Davies, and I'd be surprised if Clive Griffiths isn't being considered.

France looked tired against Wales, but by the time the World Cup comes along they are going to be formidable. They need a full-back and I'm still not sure about Frédéric Michalak at outside-half, but with Yannick Jauzion to return at centre perhaps they could turn Damien Traille into a No 10; he has played there before.

Scotland had a good Six Nations but badly need more pace. Ireland played well - Shane Horgan was superb - but you'd like to see more youngsters coming through. Italy are definitely on the march. It might not have been a vintage Six Nations, but a hell of a lot happened.

Comments