Should England’s coaching setup be changed before Six Nations?

England’s shortcomings in their three Autumn Tests have been pored over at length, with a number of different reasons cited. One that keeps cropping up though is the inadequate coaching team that Martin Johnson has around him.

John WellsThere’s a funny caption here somewhere…

When Johnson was appointed a year and a half ago, he was given the opportunity to clear out any dead wood and start again. He chose to stick with the existing team however, with the addition of the widely-acclaimed Brian Smith as the attacking coach. John Wells, the forwards coach, and Mike Ford, the defence coach had already been in the job for a year or more without producing results, and were lucky to keep their jobs.

Increasingly, Johnno’s decision is looking more and more dubious, despite my inclination to believe every word that comes out of the (playing) legend’s mouth. His recent insistence that ‘they’ve been brilliant’ is more than enough to raise an eyebrow though, considering the quality of rugby that England have produced in recent weeks.

Whereas Clive Woodward, Andy Robinson and Brian Ashton all had the comfort of blaming the shortage of time with players, Rob Andrew’s agreement with the Premiership clubs ensures that Johnno’s staff have ample time with the squad. So what have they been doing in training for the last month to produce such dross on the pitch?

For me, Wells appears to be most at risk, although Brian Smith’s attacking force managed to produce just one try in three matches, Jon Callard’s kicking tactics weren’t hugely impressive and Ford would be nowhere near the elite squad if Shaun Edwards hadn’t been snapped up by Wales. Although Wells is Johnno’s old mate, England’s pack has been dire and he’s had more than enough time to prove his worth without delivering.

The lack of quick ball has stifled England yet again, and the finger of blame must be pointed at the pack – usually an area of strength for English sides, but the current lumps seem unable to hit a ruck with any kind of force, or even make half a yard over the gain line with the ball in hand. Do they really practise the move that sees the scrum-half pass to a static forward two yards away from the previous breakdown?

As forwards coach, Wells also has a say in selection, and so must be partly responsible for sending out the uninspiring second row combination of Steve Borthwick and Louis Deacon twice in a row. So what needs to change?

Edwards is probably off limits unless the RFU can find a pot of money, and so I’d like to see Graham Rowntree promoted from set-piece coach to forwards coach. His experience with the Lions working alongside Edwards and Warren Gatland should stand him in good stead, and it’s not such a major change that might put even more pressure on Andrew and Johnson.

If there are financial or political reasons for not getting rid of Wells, why not implement an All Black-esque coaching hokey-cokey? That way, Rowntree could step up without any damaging headlines about England in chaos with yet more changes of personnel, whilst Wells could perhaps take over the set-piece, or maybe just put him in charge of water bottles, or holding the bags during training.

A minor tweak to the setup might be all that’s required – what do you think?

14 thoughts on “Should England’s coaching setup be changed before Six Nations?

  1. Funny Caption = “APE SHALL NOT KILL APE!!”

    And Yes get rid of all of them and bring in Dean Ryan and coahces of his choice, with Woodward overseeing elite sport development essentially what Rob Andrews job should be.

    Ford and Wells have done nothing imo, I still think the Smith is a genius backs coach argument falls over when you look at the rugby LI play now compared to when smith was there.

  2. Dean Ryan? Really?

    SCW should have got Andrew’s job, and that would be my first change. I would leave the rest up to him.

    All this talk about money…. Most of those guys are on 12 month rolling contracts, so it’s going to cost you whenever you make the change. There’s no point waiting any longer. And how much do people like Wells and Ford make – 100k a year? 150k? When you look at the finances of the RFU – which despite being down a little compared to 08, are still very strong – that is a drop in the ocean. The whole morale around the team right now (ie the England rugby fan community) is very low, and this will translate into lower ticket and merchandise sales, not to mention sponsorship. So spending a little now to make some big improvements is a no-brainer.

  3. Matt, yeah DR.

    I know it’s not a popular choice, and he had ashocker in the last year or so at Gloucester but I think he’s well respected, and he pretty much went stake at Gloucester. I think the fact they are struggling for anything close to consistency this year shows how much control he had on that squad.

    IMO he just hung on to long there.

    He’s got a good track record, despite not winning the final silverware.

    And I think with a decent man above him, SCW, and the right support staff behind him he’d be good.

    He’d take no nonsense that’s for certain.

  4. Well, I still refuse to believe that Johnno really did have the chance to clear the decks. He did take a while to decide on taking the job after all. And as much as I admired Johnno the uncompromising player (remember the anthems in Dublin in ’03?!) I can’t agree with everyone else who seems unable to accept that Johnno would be prepared to accept compromises in return for a very well paid job in rugby.

    I don’t admire him any the less for it, but I feel that he’s been just doing and saying as he is told with regard to his backroom team. Dare I mention the body language between them yet again!

    So should we make changes before the 6N? Absolutely. Will we? Will we b*****ks. Far too obvious and far too expensive.

  5. Meanwhile that waste of space Andrew is burning, what is it now, 400k a year or something? And precisely what is he contributing to this mess?

    I still think something will change before the 6N. Nothing radical, but a tweak here or there.

  6. SCW should definitely replace Andrews – or simply get rid of the position if money is a problem. Johnno needs to be given a new coaching team – preferably southern hemisphere coaches (simply because no one in the north is good enough – apart from Edwards, but he’ll stick with Wales). If that doesn’t work, then go for a foreign manager too i.e. Jake White. I’m not a fan of foreigns being in charge of our National teams, but got to admit, it normal gets the teams performing to their potential – just look at how Capello has changed English football. I’m a loyal fan – always have been, always will be – but I’m sick to death of seeing all our talent waste away so the likes of Borthwick and Deacon can play (just 2 examples – there’s plenty more), playing a type of rugby which no one in the rugby world can identify as RUGBY, hearing stupid comments like “we are improving” when all 15 players manage to touch the ball at least once in 80 mins, having no leadership what so ever and possibly the worse coaching team in the world!

    Will things change? Yes, but not as soon as we would like, or as drastic as we would all like – definitely not before the 6N’s

    Should things change? Of course – unless as a national we like being the laughing stock of the world rugby

  7. “Meanwhile that waste of space Andrew is burning, what is it now, 400k a year or something? And precisely what is he contributing to this mess?”

    well technically he’s responsible for elite development and performance in the RFU.

    He’s not involved in actual sqaud managment etc… he is the guy who selects coahces and structures and overseas the set up to make sure the coaches have everything they need.

    He’s responsible for putting the right guys in at the top, but past that his job finishes.

    It has to be said he’s doing a reasonable job at every other level, it’s only really the EPS that is shambles in english rugby.

    But that si the bench mark, it dosen’t matter if our U21’s are the best in the world if we fail at the top level, and for that reason I’d swap him out for SCW and let him put in the correct structure for elite development be that Johnson as Manager or whatever.

    Just look how good a job he is doing with Athletics.

  8. In my view the most important part of his role is hiring and firing the national coach, holding him accountable and coaching/mentoring him to be better. So far, he has presided over the shambolic RWC 2007 (where Ashton lost the plot, but apparently was given no guidance), the shameful treatment of Ashton in the aftermath, hired the wrong man in Johnno (no coaching record but a popularity play) and done nothing to help him make progress as a leader. All of the things we talk about here – like building for the long term, identifying and nurturing young talent – they should be things that Andrew is counselling Johnno on. Again, hard to do when he himself is not a coach or a leader.

  9. Well if we start at the top, I think Johnson is out of his depth and should never have been apointed, however he is a national hero and as such has the presence to potentially inspire his troops…….if he has the right coaching crew behind him!

    Wells should have gone long ago he forward selections are terrible with a string of uninspiring selections seeming to rely on old favourites rather than form, there are plenty of dynamic and athletic young second rows out there that seem to only get one call up and if you need an old head in the pack (always a good move) why not Mr Shaw? he was awesome for the Lions and has been in better form that Borthwick (Who should also be replaced as I cannot remember England ever having such an anonymous captain!). I agree that Rowntree is a good candidate here for internal promotion, possibly a good option this close to the 6N to minimise disruption.

    As for Smith, I am not sure he can really be judged as there have been glimpses of what the England back line can do (albeit very brief) when the forwards do the hard yards and get quick ball as such a stay of execution is I believe the right course until the backs are getting quick ball and still fail to perform (I am choosing to ignore the picking Monye at full back twice in this discussion).

    Ford should also have been shown the door long ago, England are shipping too many soft tries and the blame there has to be shared by the defence caoch!

    As for bringing in Ryan (as a Gloucester fan) I thought he was excellent at developing a squad of players but seemed unable to instill that grit and determination to grind out a result when things were going against Glos (a bit like the French of old), could be a good shout for a Saxons role should holes appear there. And yes he did hang on too long and should have taken Redpath with him.

  10. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Too many subs spoil the game. Too many coaches. Following Eddie Butler’s comments about the fog at Croke Park yesterday, we’ll soon have a meteorological expert assigned to each team, with assistant of course. Too many media pundits. Too many gizmos. Is this the same game I first played in 1944?

  11. The way that Toby Booth and Steve Bates have their teams playing right now and the way that they had the Saxons playing a couple of years ago in Canada suggests that they not only have a vision as to how the game can be played but also the ability to translate it into practice. I thought the Saxons were just awesome then.
    However, is it all too late for 2011?

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