Why Moody’s selection is starting to backfire

Despite the reservations of certain members of the media and the public, the party line from Pennyhill Park before the England squad departed for New Zealand on the 30th of August was that everyone would be fit for the first match against Argentina on September 10th. Everyone in this sense included those who had not taken sufficient part in England’s warm-up matches or had picked up injuries in those games, namely Ben Youngs, Mark Cueto, Tom Wood, Nick Easter and lastly the captain, Lewis Moody.

This statement was correct until yesterday, when England’s captain was forced to pull out of the training squad for this week’s game, and the match against Los Pumas on Saturday, and will also not feature in the game against Georgia on September the 18th. It means that once again the captaincy is Mike Tindall’s for the opening match, which given his status in the squad and leadership against Ireland in the warm-up match is not a bad thing.

The problem lies in that Moody’s absence from the first two England matches diminishes the point of his selection. Going into a World Cup tournament without your captain fit is terrible luck, but if England win comfortably against Argentina and then Georgia, then Moody may not even get back in the team. It raises the question whether he should have been selected for the Rugby World Cup at all, when you have a player such as Hendre Fourie who came in and performed so well against Ireland waiting in the wings.

Players and pundits have spoken of “Moodos” influence on the squad, and his all-action style is a favourite of fellow professionals and fans. However, if as tends to be the way with Moody’s past injury recoveries he faces further setbacks, then there is a chance that he may not play any part in the Rugby World Cup at all. England need to have their leader there from game one. World Cup history favours those sides that have had inspirational leaders on the field (Pienaar, Eales, Johnson, Smit), not in the squad wearing a “moon boot” cheering from the sidelines.

Richie McCaw will lead out New Zealand following the opening ceremony on Friday, the heartbeat of the All Black side. Australia made their captaincy call late, replacing the ineffective Rocky Elsom and bringing in a player who has just captained his Super Rugby side to their first title and is in the form of his life, the second rower James Horwill. England however have gambled on Moody, and right now, it does not appear to have paid off.

by Ben Coles

3 thoughts on “Why Moody’s selection is starting to backfire

  1. Firstly I want to agree with you that there are questions over Moody’s inclusion in the England squad. There may have been other English flankers carrying much more form into this World Cup. As you mentioned Hendre Fourie is one, Phil Dowson is another, Tom Johnson, Chris Robshaw and Steffon Armitage are others. Being in finer fettle than Moody this year has not been difficult feat considering he has only played 62 minutes of international rugby in 2011 and a handful of club games.

    However, I also want to expand on your point of Moody’s influence on the squad. Moody’s inclusion, injured or otherwise, completes a backbone of World Cup winners through the England squad. Thompson, Shaw, Moody, Wilkinson and Tindall all have first hand experience from 2003 which could prove key to England’s success. Having a balanced squad at a World Cup is essential and this ‘backbone’ of players has a purpose and a duty to cultivate and guide the less experienced and younger members of the squad such as Hartley, Lawes, Wood, Tuilagi, Ashton and Foden.

    Now, I agree that squad members should definitely be picked to play and not just for behind-the-scenes influence, and in particular captains should lead by example on the pitch. But should “Mad Dog” Moody’s unfortunate injury problems persist throughout the tournament (which will hopefully not be the case), he will still have a valuable role to play in guiding his team to success that others would not.

  2. Good article – couldn’t agree more.

    It would have been a huge shame, but the smart decision may well have been to leave him at home.

    Besides, we need a fetcher. Fourie would have come very good give consistent game time i feel.

  3. @Chris Attoe,
    I agree with you that Moody brings much needed experience and leadership, but if he is going to play no active role then surely the ideal situation would be to have him as part of the backroom staff and get someone like Fourie over there?

Comments are closed.