I have this curious picture in my mind of the England coach, Andy Robinson, suspended in limbo with no one underneath him and no one above him.
Apparently, the finest brains the Rugby Football Union can muster are even now considering how best to help him by filling these glaring gaps.
I know Robinson's team have not done too well lately, but this bizarre treatment doesn't appear to be a compliment to him. He is just hanging about waiting for support to arrive. After England's underperformances the RFU would have been in their rights to clear out the entire coaching staff, including him, and in many ways this might have been the best idea. But with the World Cup 16 months away that would have been too drastic. Whatever you say about Andy, he has taken a team to the World Cup and won it. Not many coaches can offer that experience.
It is difficult for outsiders to know what's been going on in the minds of the RFU as they plot the coaching structure that is now going to take the English team forward. But to wipe out his coaching team at one fell swoop seems a bit extreme. I don't know if he was consulted about the departures of Phil Larder, Joe Lydon, Dave Alred and Chris Spice, but to throw them out with no replacements lined up suggests a lack in the planning department.
I have no idea why Alred and Spice have gone. As for Larder and Lydon, I suppose they are the scapegoats for the lack of achievement. From what I under-stand, as defensive coach Larder had a huge influence. I have a high regard for him, but perhaps a fresh approach and a few new ideas would be a help.
As an old pro, Lydon would realise that if the backs failed his neck would be on the block. And the backs failed big time. But I understand that Lydon was constantly complaining that he never had enough time training with the backs. Everyone knows how well Joe did with the sevens team. He knows how to develop basic skills, to train players how to off-load and to make the best use of overlaps. We await with interest the name of his replacement, but there is the feeling they have yet to decide.
As for Robinson, how is his contribution going to be affected? It is clear that he needs to be out of the limelight - he is a great hands-on coach but he is not a front man - which bring us back to the days when he had a front man. His name was Clive Woodward, and together they built a side that won the World Cup and, moreover, won it in the southern hemisphere.
Let no one ever belittle that. But can that partnership be restored? A lot of Woodward has passed under the bridge since then. When he left he let loose a volley of criticism that still smarts in some quarters. Would he still enjoy the aura and respect he possessed previously?
Woodward is not the only name being discussed as the new director of élite rugby to shape England's emergence as a force worthy of regaining their world supremacy. Rob Andrew would appear to have the credentials, but would he be able to strike the same relationship with Robinson that Woodward had?
I firmly believe that England have the forwards to win the World Cup again, but they need to get it right defensively and to rediscover an attacking bite. A simple change of personnel and a few new ideas would have achieved that, but I feel the RFU have panicked. If they did want to recreate a role at the top, they should have started there - not in the middle.Reuse content