For all rugby fans, both hardcore and passive, the 2015 Rugby World Cup has provided a plethora of exciting drama, thrills and outstanding performances.
Japan upset former champions South Africa, Georgia put in a valiant display against the mighty All Black and a resurgent Scotland looked poised to make the quarter finals having narrowly missed out in 2011.
However, the biggest shock for most fans has come in the form of an early exit for England. Tested against Fiji, out-muscled by an injury hit Wales and simply outclassed by the Wallabies at HQ. Much will be made of the team performances in the coming weeks and an inquest will surely mean that heads will roll at the top.
A number of issues will be debated; dubious selection policies, inability to hold their nerve when the pressure was really on but most importantly the leadership. Rugby teams, like in the work place, require a strong leader at the front to lead by example, making the big calls when needed whilst remaining accountable for those around them and driving the team the victory and success. I have played rugby since I was a teenager and have always found the best teams flourish with someone like that at the helm.
Up until the hour mark in the game against Wales last weekend, England were coasting. Heading for the second victory of the tournament they knew that even a loss to Australia wouldn’t have mattered with minnows from Uruguay to follow. From that moment, the wheels began to fall off the wagon:
1) Stuart Lancaster, Head Coach of England, made the contentious choice to hand rookie union player Sam Burgess his first World Cup start against Wales. This was deemed a bad choice due to his experience and him facing up to the experienced centre Jamie Roberts. For an hour, this experiment worked but then a host of substitutions, some enforced through injury but others by choice including Burgess saw England capitulate and lose a 10 point lead. Say what you want about Burgess’s initial selection but it was Lancaster’s poor decision making towards the end that cost his team.
2) England captain Chris Robshaw, for so long seen as a steady albeit not world class international player, also was culpable in making a poor decision during the game. With England trailing 28-25, minutes left on the clock and Owen Farrell kicking like a dream, Robshaw made the decision to kick for the corner in an attempt to drive over the line for a game winning try. The decision backfired horribly. Hindsight is a beautiful thing and I am sure now if Mr Robshaw could go back in time and change his decision he would. Post match there seemed to be a lack of accountability from the management team. Robshaw attempted to accept the blame however many suggested it was a committee of senior players who made that call including Geoff Parling and Richard Wigglesworth. No accountability and a poor decision under pressure cost the team dearly.
3) England went into the Australia game knowing it was win or bust and from the first moments it clear that although they were adventurous in attack they were no match for the men in Gold and Green. What was most striking was how they were not able to cope with the pressure; expectations of a nation, 80,000 screaming fans at Twickenham and the inevitable barrage of bad press that would follow. They lacked a leader on the pitch and it showed. Whilst Robshaw had one of his worst games in an England shirt, Australia were led outstandingly by Stephen Moore in conjunction with Michael Hooper and David Pocock. Their leadership team stood up and led them to victory and England’s simply did not.
A lot of what has occurred over the past couple of weeks is synonymous with what takes places in the office environment. The best teams are led by passionate leaders, accountable leaders and managers who can work under pressure to deliver results. The teams below these types of managers are able to flourish, develop, succeed and they all share in the rewards! England were found wanting in this department and now will go down in history as the first team to be knocked out of the group stages on home soil.