4 October 2015
It was a great shame seeing England knocked out of the rugby yesterday. As a Welshman I was keen to see Wales home and dry, but I got no satisfaction from the result yesterday.
So what do you do when you find yourself in a position like the England team and coach are now, where after years of preparation and months of gruelling hard work, it amounts to nothing?
Being kicked out of a tournament early has to be one of the toughest things to deal with as a sportsman.
So where do they go from here?
Well the powers that be and the fans will probably be baying for blood and wanting the manager Stuart Lancaster out, but does this guarantee them success with their next appointment? Absolutely not! In fact, how many times do the RFU and other governing body’s find themselves in this situation? Every time!
So how do you select someone who is going to inspire the troops and get the team to the coveted position, the number one spot?
Its simple, you need to find yourself a motivating character. Not the best retired player or the most popular person with the board room.
I remember when they picked Johnson, an amazing rugby man, knowledgeable and hardened from years of battling action, yet it was obvious from the start that he was NOT a motivating character. His stint in charge was a disaster.
You would think that professionals, picked to play for their country would be able to go out on to the pitch and coordinate their efforts and that a manager is not really necessary, however it’s not the case; the manager plays the most significant role in the winning and losing.
Look at the difference Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards made when they joined Wales. They literally revolutionised the team giving them new levels of belief.
Great leaders seem to have the knack to do it over and over again, against all the odds. Sir Alex Ferguson was a fine example of this, a highly motivating personality extreme in every way. But if you want extreme results, you can’t go about your business is an average fashion, you need extreme training, diet, rest, extreme motivation, everything about your dedication to the cause has to be extreme.
I looked at Stuart Lancaster yesterday in the interview and whilst he was obviously disappointed, he lacked that “extreme passion.” I’d expect someone leading a team to defeat in front of millions, crushing everyones expectations, to be teary eyed.
The embarrassment factor of being the first home nation team ever to be kicked out in the early stages, should be reason enough to hang his head in shame, but no, he talked about selection next week for the game in Manchester.
The difference between winning and losing is so tiny at the top level. It’s not about being the biggest, the strongest or even the best, on the day, it is all about belief. Japan demonstrated this brilliantly against their opponents South Africa in their opening game. No one, least of all the South African Team expected the Japanese to win, but they literally ran rings around them and never gave up. It was their belief that eventually unsettled the South African team. There was a moment when with about 5 minutes to go and the Japanese chose to repeatedly kick to the corner looking for the win. It would have been a great deal easier to take the 3 points which would result in a draw, the South African team mates were looking at each other in disbelief as if to say, “what do we do?”
Belief! The belief in the Japanese team had grown throughout the match and the force of momentum sometimes is unstoppable. Is it coincidence that the Japanese Rugby team is managed by none other than former Australian national coach, Eddie Jones?
This is what England lacked on Saturday. Experience, on the pitch with 300 caps to Austrlia’s 600, but ultimately I believe the leadership made the biggest difference on the day, as there is certainly enough talent and passion on the bench.
You need a coach committed, feeling every tackle, every injury and every step. Someone who is interlinked with every character, someone who knows his team inside out. A leader needs to understand the individuals they are in charge of, its imperative otherwise you won’t know how to inspire them. We are all motivated by different things. The biggest mistake people make when taking control in leadership is assume that people are motivated by the same thing. In business the common misconception is “money is the ultimate motivator.”
Money doesn’t motivate. You need something deeper than money. Something that is fundamental to the way someone ticks. Once you have found it, motivating becomes easy.
But if finding out what motivates a large group of people at a granular level is easy, everyone would be able to do it. The stark reality is it seems to be one of the most complex roles to recruit for. Usually because the people at the top of organisations are there because of their knowledge and years in the industry. These types of characters are the worst at picking motivating characters. They are naturally looking for the safe option and are governed by rules.
To take a team to new levels you have to dream. You have to believe. You have to dare to try something different.
We all have been down and out at some point, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We all need to experience the lows in order for us to appreciate the highs.
The England team need to remember the feeling when the final whistle blew and they need to take that with them every day and they must never forget it. They need to use this emotion to drive them harder than they think is imaginable so they never experience it again. Only then have they are chance of becoming true champions.
The current team has the advantage of being young and there is a huge amount of talent with in it and British rugby as a whole and yesterdays result isn’t a true reflection of the effort and passion for the game right across the UK. The England team need to go back to basics and rebuild; harder, fitter, stronger, better, faster. Most of all they need a leader who ignites belief and gives them the courage and shows them the way when it gets tough.
England will bounce back, but it will bounce back a great deal quicker if the people at the very top who recruit the coaches and management and control the game from the boardroom stand aside. Its time for some extreme action and extreme results!
Whatever your thoughts, the team on Saturday put their heart and souls into and did their best.