Leaving aside the fact that Martin Johnson could point to some real achievements in the past two seasons, an awful lot of nonsense has been spoken about his former role in the last few months, particularly the need for a performance director or manager as well as a head coach, writes Mark Evans, the former Harlequins Chief Executive.
In sports such as cycling, athletics, swimming and rowing, there are multiple disciplines and both genders to consider. In these circumstances it makes sense to have a performance director responsible for the big picture and held accountable for the overall level of attainment at the Olympics and world championships.
However, rugby, football and cricket have a single flagship team and one guy needs to be in charge, reporting to the board through the chief executive. Anything else just breeds confusion in the minds of the players, press and public alike.
How that person chooses to operate should be up to them. Some, like Sir Alex Ferguson, Philippe Saint-André and John Buchanan, do very little, if any, on-pitch coaching; others, like Arsene Wenger, Warren Gatland and Duncan Fletcher, are much more hands-on.
Neither approach is inherently superior since the key is not coaching but selection. It’s a sporting truth that whoever picks the team is the boss. So talk of whether England needs a coach and/or a manager is irrelevant – whoever picks the team is in charge and is responsible for results. It doesn’t matter what the title is, though it’s probably easier in communication terms to call him the head coach.
There are other important roles within the playing side of a national governing body, such as coach development, support services in nutrition, medicine and analysis, and age-group teams, but these aren’t the job of the national coach.
Nor should they be the remit of his direct boss – one of the things that has mystified me in recent years is how Rob Andrew has failed to make clear his role within the RFU. You have to be very close to the game to know his areas of responsibility and ironically he has done a lot of good work in many of them. But by accident or design he and others have allowed the inaccurate impression to gain currency that he’s accountable for the England team. It has damaged Rob’s reputation, and has highlighted once again the need for clear reporting lines to be established and communicated to the media and public.
So if that confusion is cleared up, who should get the job? Ideally the successful candidate should be English, though half of the Premiership clubs are led by Celts.
If circumstances were different Dean Richards would be strongly placed given his coaching record.
But he’s still banned, so look to Jim Mallinder and Toby Booth – both in their forties, both successful, and both experienced enough to take the next step. More experienced in coaching terms than Clive Woodward, who hadn’t completed a single season as a head coach in the Premiership before he took over at England, and that appointment didn’t turn out too badly, did it?
This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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