“Brian must have been thinking, ‘There’s a conspiracy happening here’”

The first inside stories of events within the England camp at the Rugby World Cup are coming out, and they aren’t pretty. Laurence Dallaglio’s in particular. This is one of the best pieces of thoughtful writing involving a sportsman that I’ve read.

A few of the more experienced guys got together: Phil Vickery, Mike Catt, Jason Robinson, Jonny Wilkinson, Andy Farrell and myself. “Am I crazy or are we all thinking the same thing here?” one of the guys asked, and it turned out we all saw things in pretty much the same way. We had a head coach who wanted one thing, other coaches who wanted other things, and everyone was unsure about the overall direction, especially the players. The general feeling was that three weeks before our first prep game, we hadn’t a clue what was going on.

Soon after we arrived home from Paris, there was a letter from the Rugby Football Union and a comprehensive questionnaire regarding every aspect of England’s organisation and performance at the World Cup. We were asked to assess the team’s preparation and the contribution of our various coaches. The assessments and comments could be made anonymously if you wished. The first thing I did was to write my name on the top of the form. Anonymity is not something you can afford in Test rugby.

Read the rest.

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3 responses to ““Brian must have been thinking, ‘There’s a conspiracy happening here’”

  1. Ouch, that’s brutal.

  2. We’ve had a constant drip-feed of complaints from players to ex-player chums in the press like Paul Ackford. Now we get some juicy bits from a senior pro’s upcoming book.

    What bothers me is not a single journo or commentator has approached any of this with the slightest scepticism. We’ve watched this play in three acts before when Welsh players ousted Ruddock after the Grand Slam. We should think very carefully about how Wales have performed since then before we uncritically take the pronouncements of players to heart when the coach seems to be not in a position to respond.

    It’s fun to blame selection and coaching conflicts on Brian Ashton, and it’s certainly clear that selecting Dallaglio was a mistake of the highest order, he underperformed every single minute he was on the field.

    It bothers me however that we’re not going to see the people who prevented Ashton from ditching John Wells (the higher ups at the RFU) take any blame for this situation. Likewise, given what we know of Ashton’s beliefs and what Dayglo says about them, the squad selection looks pretty un-Ashton like. One can’t help but wonder (a la Jol and Comolli) who made some of the final decisions there.

    But, as usual it seems beyond the ken of British sports journalism to ask these kind of questions…

  3. There are two criteria to selecting people for the job – eligibilty and suitability.

    Ashton has the qualification and experience of coaching and may have come over well at interview but was he suitable for the position? As we found out… no.

    The trouble is can those that are in charge of selecting the coaching staff be trusted to find a solution to this predicament?