Just desserts

Do England and the RFU have the coach they deserve? Having pardoned mediocrity before, can they really be surprised it has turned up at their door again? In Eddie Jones they have someone who is wonderfully evasive and difficult to second guess in an interview, but obvious and predictable in selection and tactics.

Argentina, the matador on Sunday afternoon, recognised the type of bull they faced and promptly bided their time. ‘Allow the animal to do the running’. They didn’t need possession or territory to undo their foe, just vigilance for the mistake they knew would arrive. Forward the big beast flummoxed; muscle has always been Eddie’s preferred suit, brawn to go with the prawn sandwiches being picked over way up high. But toreros can deal with size; their gift is in knowing how the creature will act. Names on the team sheet gave them their answer. Boffelli’s boot drove home the crucial spear but this was less a telling blow, and more the flamboyant dance that preceded it.

Eddie’s response amounted to little more than a shrug of the shoulders. He claimed England had done well but lost. That it would serve as a good message for the team:

“The World Cup is eleven months away,” countered the Australian, chuntering like a man who possessed a golden box but no key to open it. “A lot happens in eleven months, and a lot in a week. It’s a great opportunity for us now because we’re under the pump a bit, which is good, and I think we’ll respond really well. I’m looking forward to it.”

Jones loves a ‘them and us’ narrative; ‘Under the pump’ is where he operates best and here he is revelling in a negative situation that he created. And then there’s this – habit:

“It’s a habit that we need to change.,“ he continued, ready to use the sort of circumvention of which his backline can only dream. “It’s like when you get up in the morning and you don’t brush your teeth and your wife tells you, ‘Brush your teeth, brush your teeth,’ then she rewards you with something after breakfast — I don’t know what that would be — and you start brushing your teeth again.”

How do bad habits come about? In his brilliant book ‘The Power of Habit’, Charles Duhigg is at pains to point out that studies have shown that people will perform automated behaviours (habits) — like brushing teeth — the same way every single time, if they’re in the same environment. 

The same players, the same head coach, the same plan; no wonder habits form. No wonder Twickenham was lulled into ambivalent silence. Yes, the World Cup is eleven months away but it didn’t used to be. When this schtick was employed before and defeats were endured and excuses proffered, it used to be a lot further away. Things could have been done. But they haven’t and here we are. Where we were before. Despite the embarrassment of riches that the Gallagher Premiership can boast, we are rubbing old farthings together and hoping.

I expect a response. Maybe even England to return a win over the All Blacks or Springboks. And Eddie will wink and smile, change his backroom staff, wisecrack his way through another tepid Six Nations campaign, bring in another set of players he won’t use or maybe just cap once, and then revert to type.

For out of his mouth comes the truth of the situation: he is not looking to pick the best players, he is looking to create the best team to carry out the plan. Eddie wants a fifteen that will do what he tells them. He’s not interested in adapting to the ability of players or looking at potential and seeing where it will take him; he knows best and wants people to go his way. Always has.

And in a way, that’s not his fault. That’s what makes him who he is and particularly good in certain situations. The RFU will have known this and we have been subjected to countless examples of how effective he can be in the short term, but in the long term, it doesn’t really work. But the governing body don’t really do anything about anything. They just want bums on seats at HQ for their two competitions a year, and to guzzle all the profits. People will pay exorbitant prices, wear the right T-shirts and even if they don’t come back, there are enough people queuing up behind them to suffice.

This is a corporate venture. Not a sporting one. Where money is king and everything else doesn’t really matter. And because people keep on paying through the nose, complacency has set in at the top, in the team and judging by the way they just apathetically lapped up another toothless display, it’s set into the stands as well.

It’s true, I’m afraid, you get the coach you deserve.

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1 Response to Just desserts

  1. tobiaskey says:

    Totally agree with this. Watched it on amazon and it was awful. Especially compared to France vs. New Zealand women’s match earlier on in the day. Quite something when the women’s game offers a better spectacle than the current England men’s team.


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