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Your NewsFALLING LEGENDS

Friday 14th October 2011
FALLING LEGENDS

During the World Cup Rupert Bates is writing a weekly column from the UK for Rugby News New Zealand magazine (www.rugby.co.nz). This article was first published in Rugby News October 13th.

 

 

For legends of the English fall, read falling legends. England manager Martin Johnson has shrunk so much there is a danger he could be tossed about in a nightclub next time he travels south. Meanwhile Jonny Wilkinson apparently now cannot kick, pass or tackle.

With a large draught of hindsight Johnson should never have been made manager in the first place, with no coaching experience. In fact an unwritten rugby law states that if, in your playing days, you were referred to as legendary, iconic, or immortal, do not under any circumstances coach.

As for Wilkinson, he sometimes curses that drop goal in 2003. He never wanted to be a legend. It does not need acres of media coverage to tell the obsessive self-analyst he was a shadow of his former self at this World Cup.

Did Johnson, his captain in Sydney glory, show naïve, stubborn loyalty? Maybe, but Toby Flood has never sewn on the number 10 jersey. England supporters, outside of Leicester anyway, would tell you, even if kicking like a drain, it is still Wilkinson you want in the pocket with three points to nick it. The trouble is England played with their trousers down in New Zealand, unable to get anywhere near a pocket.

Such are the alternatives to Johnson trotted out by the critics, you might as well re-name Twickenham Jurassic Park. Sir Clive Woodward, Sir Ian McGeechan. Why not go the whole hog and dig up Sir Winston Churchill?

Former England first-five turned broadcaster and pundit Stuart Barnes even calls for Graham Henry – a knighthood dependent on Mike Tindall having a word with his granny-in-law.

Do me a favour Barnesy. If I was chief executive of the Rugby Football Union – and I have as much chance as any, given the disgraceful state of affairs at English HQ – I would head straight for London Irish and poach the Premiership club’s head coach Toby Booth.

Never heard of him? Good. I don’t think the word legend has ever been applied to Booth - in a rugby playing context anyway - but he is both an exceptional coach and communicator, who having never played at the top level does not trip over his past. 

Booth, 41, is also a qualified electrician and somebody needs to spark England and get them using their brains, not just their brawn. Booth would probably take his London Irish attack coach Mike Catt with him to teach England how to pass and create and exploit space.

But the biggest fallout from the quarter-final results is that my semi-final weekend with my south African mate Julian has been ruined. We planned to watch England on Saturday morning our time; then a bit of dwarf throwing, before plunging our heads into barmaids’ cleavages, while assuring our wives they were just friends.

We would catch the Springboks game on Sunday, before doing it all over again and perhaps jumping off a boat to round it all off. It would have been a legendary drinking session. And we know what happens to legends.


Posted by: , on October 14th 2011 on 08:00am
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