As the dust begins to settle over what turned out to be a hugely disappointing English World Cup campaign, an intricate post-mortem will no doubt be underway at England Rugby HQ. For the second world cup in a row, England has fallen very short of fulfilling their potential. After the 2011 World Cup performance, where England managed to make the quarter-finals.
England Rugby became very introspective, producing an incredibly verbose report, which was leaked to the press, detailing every aspect of their campaign and where all possible reasons for failure lay. Everything from greedy players, weak leadership and poor communication were cited as the reasons for England’s undoing.
If it made uncomfortable reading for fans of English Rugby, it caused huge divides amongst the players, coaches and media; however, England Rugby insisted that the report served to help the camp move on from the world cup, while learning from their mistakes. Four years later and an even less impressive England performance begs the question, where to from here?
When leaders vanish
While the press attempt to analyse every different angle and interpret every decision, one thing is clear – from top to bottom, England Rugby has suffered from a massive leadership deficit. As the knives were being drawn after the Wales defeat, England needed to produce a united front in the face of criticism.
This was the time for leaders to emerge and set the tone for their forthcoming game against Australia. Instead, we saw a wilted, unmotivated and nervous England side obviously still carrying the hangover from their Welsh defeat and for that, the leadership has to accept responsibility. Mistakes and poor decisions are an inevitable part of any team endeavor, whether in elite sports or the business world, nothing runs smoothly 100% of the time.
It’s at these moments that a strong team really proves itself, when decisions don’t go your way or failure is looming, a well bonded team with strength in leadership rises to meet the problem and devises strategies to overcome and adapt, instead of falling into a state of inertia and accepting defeat.
Learn from your mistakes!
No team is destined to win every game, overcome every obstacle but we can learn a lot about the fundamentals of that team when they are faced with adversity. It’s clear that the England Rugby team has multiple issues throughout the England Rugby setup. It’s telling that the players are threatening to boycott the RFU tournament review, fearing another exposure in the press. The previous RFU review did not make for easy reading from a fan’s perspective.
Unorganised and overbearing media commitments, a culture of mistrust and lack of unity between players and a lack of faith in leadership were the common themes raised by the majority of players. That these are the exact same points beginning to be raised from this world cup squad is bewildering.
It is of course necessary for any institution to analyze their progress, both in failure and success. That the RFU oversaw the last review so disastrously, yet seemingly acted on none of the intelligence gathered and allowed a repeat of the exact same circumstances is bewildering. Looking at the wider picture of English Rugby, it’s obvious that a complete return to basics is long overdue rather than the patch up attempt over the last 4 years.