There’s always a debate about whether teams should focus on winning the next game with no eye on the future, or whether they should build a team to target the Rugby World Cup every four years.
This debate is particularly pertinent for England at the moment, given that Martin Johnson’s side must surely be at rock bottom in terms of performance, and they have slipped out of the top four in the IRB World Rankings – which means that they won’t be among the top four seeds at the World Cup.
That means they really will have to be the best side in the world to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, so that they can beat every team that stands in their way even in the group stages.
After this weekend’s New Zealand game, England have 2 and a half years to become world beaters once again. Ideally, they’d need a Grand Slam Six Nations campaign going into the World Cup, so they would seek to be peaking at the beginning of 2011. So with the Lions Tour next summer, there are just three meaningful series of matches before the Six Nations in World Cup year, so they really need to start getting it right.
Everyone is saying Johnno needs time, but does that mean we just plod along for another six months before deciding that the setup is still not right and sacking the seemingly incompetent coaches? Or do we take action now, change the coaching setup in time for the new year, conduct a proper review (not a Rob Andrew review) of the entire structure of the game from the grass-roots through the academies up to the elite squad?
Do we go on a recruiting drive around the Pacific Islands with some wads of RFU cash? Would central contracts for elite players make a difference? How about moving to a region-based club structure? Wales has won 2 Grand Slams in 4 years don’t forget…
Or is it just a case of tweaking a few things here and there, fine tuning the best players so that it all comes together on matchday?
Last weekend’s drubbing by the Springboks was embarrassing. The Southern Hemisphere teams have been outstanding and we should take nothing away from them, but something surely needs to change to close the gap so that we can mount a credible challenge in 2011.
Readers of The Rugby Blog invariably choose the right options (‘Borthwick should not be captain’, ‘Noon isn’t good enough’, ‘Farrell really shouldn’t be playing fly-half’ etc), so now is your chance to post your views about what should happen after this disastrous autumn series.
The Rugby Paper will be featuring a selection of comments from here in this week’s newspaper, so please let us know what you think and hopefully the RFU blazers will take the ideas on board.