How to fix a broken chariot?

Published on October 16, 2015

Swing low
We had home advantage.We had a week’s turnaround between every match. We had the warm up schedule that was required and the staff that was specified. We had a record of beating Wales and Australia stretching back three years. And yet we lost to both of them and are out of the rugby World Cup. Impossible? Clearly not.

So what went wrong? Well my rugby career peaked at 11 when I was in the first fifteen, and declined the following year when as captain we lost every match bar one. So I may not be able to speak as someone with great rugby experience but some of the things that contributed to this are not restricted to rugby nor even sport. My three ha’pence, which I think apply to any organisation, are the following:

Innovate innovate innovate: I know no more about scrummaging than I did when I was hooker at age 11. But what I do know is that the England scrum was not the dominant force at this World Cup that we were used to. We failed to develop it and other nations have not just caught up but overtaken us. If there was ever a demonstration of the mantra ” change or die” then this is it.

Stick to the strategy. Whatever you plan, things go wrong and you need to change the plan. But if you change the strategy the organisation loses its way. So it was when Jonathan Joseph was injured and the back line was changed so that its shape – what it intended to do – moved from creative to muscular. That’s like a company famed for its design moving to a low cost offering. Perplexing to say the least.

Support is just support. I was at Twickenham. I sang with the rest. I got goose bumps and I wasn’t even playing. But the fact that my Dad watched every match that I captained didn’t stop us losing either. Without a good base, support won’t determine the outcome, although in a roughly even game, or a reasonably capable business, good advice and support can be extremely beneficial.

Give me the reason. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs point to something in their past, when they appeared to have failed, as the motivation to succeed, to prove those nay sayers wrong. I don’t know this England squad and there may be many such instances, but I suspect not because I would have heard of them by now. I do know of some iof the things that befell the 2003 squad – the death of Lawrence Dallaglio’s sister and Will Greenwood’s tragedy that required him to fly back from the tournament to be with his wife briefly. A desire to win won’t withstand the white heat of international contest, or similar tough challenges, without some deep-rooted reason, one that goes beyond rational desire.

Win or win well? Without Jason Robinson England wouldn’t have won in 2003. Despite being ranked the number 1 team they played terribly in the quarter final (against Wales) and were saved by his solo effort. I don’t defend Dylan Harley’s disciplinary record (nor, I suspect, does he). But I wonder if we would have won if he wasn’t dropped from the squad and had either started or replaced Tom Youngs so that that last line-out wasn’t so easily defended because Rob Webber wasn’t reliable enough? Discipline is a key element of any endeavour but so is tolerance. I suggest that a team that tolerates errors, even serious ones, can be applauded when it succeeds if its ethic includes self discipline, even if there are individual breaches.

I’m sure that these thoughts are nowhere near enough to fix the chariot but hopefully they may propel it a little further forward so that by 2019 it can carry “me cup” home?