Time for some plain speaking. English rugby is a farce. And Martin Johnson simply must be held accountable. Not for all of it mind. That lies at the foot of the hateful Premiership Rugby, the governing body of the premier league and its vain self interest, and the rudderless RFU, which Chairman regular readers will know all about.
MJ's remit is the England team. And he has pointedly failed since his entirely bogus appointment. Make no mistake, Johnson was hired not by the RFU, but by the media. And now for the media the chickens are coming home to roost. MJ had no qualifications whatsover to be appointed coach of England. NONE. Apart from being a world cup winner and having a "brooding presence" or whatever tired cliche the hacks choose to use on any given day. Since he has come in, England have regressed. They are a worse side than the one he inherited. This is simple fact that no amount of comments like "ooh, Toby Flood is a great fly half and controls the game" changes.
As I have oft stated, I do have a certain amount of sympathy. Rugby as a game in England is swimming against the tide. The tide of relentles health & safety dogma, pikey lazy scared parents who don't want little jimmy (or whatever ghastly monicker the hopeless child has been lumped with) hurting himself (but are quite prepared to watch him loot the local JD Sports no doubt) and a vacuous crippled generation of cowardly layabouts who are too chicken shit to play a contact sport. Meaning the pool of players goes down all the time. Again, simple fact.
The Premiership Rugby (like the FA) is complicit in the destruction of the game. PRL cares noting for the national game, spitting into the face of the RFU which has done all it can to provide a basis for national achievement. Like football, rugby now suffers from an ever dwindling England qualified player base as the country is flooded with cheap foreign imports (where have we heard that before!) and tight budgets mean no youth player development worth the name.
But none of this, NONE of this, excuses that lamentable performance against Wales.
Wales! This is a country with even more problems than England. A bloated tired pointless nation state, addicted to its neighbours forever generous teet. And all England gets in return is hate. A simple thank you would suffice welshies, rather than the oh so predictable false fury and rage which seems to great any England team playing there.
But we should thank Wales who thoroughly deserved to beat their much bigger, better funded neighbours. England were shown up by what they are: a team with no verve, no skills, no ability to score tries whatsoever. Just imagine, IMAGINE, if England were playing those humourless kiwis... A massacre is far too polite a word. It would be total capitulation.
And Johnson MUST be held accountable. All this drivel in the media about his "silence" after the game as if that was supposed to magically make Hape have a slightly more convincing case to be playing international rugby union, or excuses Cueto from being in the national side. Its laughable. This isnt Leicester in 1995, when a few angry words from Johnson might have mobilised a couple of players. These are highly rewarded professional athletes and they are being lead by a donkey.
But if you can indulge me for 5 minutes, I would like to be a bit more forensic about the performance and the players. I should note that nothing I say below is unusual and its nothing personal (apart from with Armitage, who is a well known cock of the highest order). The chat boards on the Telegraph website are all in total agreement. Yet, the one person who matters is watching not just a different game, but it seems a different sport.
In no particular order, I would like to kick off with Danny Care. This bloke is by some distance the worst SH I have ever seen in and England shirt, possibly ever. I am shaking my head in disbelief just thinking about it. He is diabolical. His pass is slow and weak. He cannot pass without taking 2 steps first (this used to be coached out of a SH at the age of 7). He single handedly slows down an entire game by waiting for forwards to arrive, looking around before deciding what to do. Care is the fulcrum for this pathetic England team. Why is he not told to work QUICK ball? Why does he think that it is a good idea to wait to release the ball to let the opposition defence organise? This is pre-schoolboy stuff. Its no good moaning about Stephen Jones on twitter Danny Boy. You are key to the problem. What chance does Flood or Hape have playing outside you? By the time the ball arrives the opposition could have played a game of chess.
Flood? Flood? Is this really the best England can produce at FH? It simply beggars belief. He still looks like the schoolboy who has got lost and suddenly found himslef playing international rugby. How did this happen? Physcally he is tiny. He is remarkably slow for a small lad. His kicking from hand abysmal at this level and his place kicking average at best. His distribution slow and without vision. His tackling weak. He is as far away from test standard rugby as Arwel Thomas was all those years ago. And at least he was quick. Flood's selection is as damning indictment of the quality of English rugby as anything else I can think of.
"Hape". I dont want to focus on his nationality but I have to. He is not English. He is a kiwi. Complete with comedy kiwi accent and comedy kiwi tattoos. He is a mercenary. Rugby is about pride and passion (and courage). Hape has none of those things. He openly wears his kiwi identity as some perverse badge of honour. This is a bloke not good enough to play union in NZ. Yet he now lines up with the red rose on his chest? His presence offends me. When he faces the ridiculous dance the kiwis do, what will he be thinking? It's lamentable. But not as lamentable as his rugby. Big and strong? Certainly. But slow. He has nothing, NOTHING going forward. This was equally true at Bath as well. His selection is entirely without merit. Its no good MJ sticking up for him and coming out with cryptic bullshit like "he does things you dont see". This is inexcusable. Hape has no place on an international rugby field. How can MJ be the only one on the western hemisphere who seems not to notice this? With Hape at IC, england will be starved of scoring opportunities. This is not a matter of opinion. This is a statement of fact.
Tindall? I mean honestly. How on earth is he still playing international rugby? I refuse to believe his heart is in it any more to be honest, now he's bagged a bloody priness. Money worries over for Mike. He needs some cash he can pop off to Hello magazine and flog some pics of their beastly future sprog. After all, he tried to sell the wedding pics didnt he (I give it 3 years).
Tindally seems, amazingly, to be dining off his 2001-3 performances. Which let us not forget, came while he played outside a certain Will Greenwood, who did know how to play. Just as most the useless bone idle pikey England football players seem good playing for their ghastly clubs alongside really talent imports, so Tindall looked good alongside Greenwood. Now outside Hape, Tindall is utterly exposed as an ageing, slow lump with truly terrible hands. If the ball magically reaches Tindall after the age it takes to get from Care, Flood and Hape, then the move will almost certainly come to an end.
But he might have to pass to Mark Cueto... honestly. How on earth is he still in the side. He cant believe it himself can he? There was much written about that lean scoring patch he found himself in while Ashton was scoring for fun at club and international level. Yet no one seemed to ask the obvious question. Why is Ashton scoring tries while Cueto isnt? All sort of excuses were found for him and Cueto himself remained bullish. But it was all nonsense. He didnt score tries becasue he is far far too slow for a wing and isnt very good. Its not rocket science is it. The stats are revealing. Why did MJ not stop for a moment and think: "hmm, maybe Cueto just isnt very good". It is simply not good enough. Johnson is like a rabbit in the headlights.
I regret the same can be said of Bannahan. A big guy, but size is not enough at the highest level. Bannahan has been repeatedly exposed at the top level. He should go back to club rugby and bully the smaller chaps there. I like him. I like the obvious pride he takes in representing his country and his pride in his pilot grandfather. But I am fierecely proud of my grandfather who fought in WWII and I dont pretend I should be selected (though the Chairman is available for selection).
Much is made of Foden, but he really does fancy himself a bit doesn't he with that ridiculous pop star girlfriend, tight t-shirts and poxy youtube videos. Does'nt he wear jackets with the sleeves rolled up for god's sake? But as to his rugby, the boy is nowhere near, nowhere NEAR as good as he thinks he is and he is nowhere near as good as the idiots in the MSM claim he is. He's ok.
But before the ball gets to the backs, it has to get out the back of the scrum. And to do this, it needs to filter through the fat legs of Nick Easter. Now, I like Nick Easter and I hear from very well placed sources he is a good bloke. But being a good bloke does not make him a good rugby player. Otherwise the Chairman would be on his 100th cap by now. Like Flood, Easter's selection is damning indictment of the quality of England number 8s. Isn't it just depressing? Look back at history. Richards, Teague, Dallaglio etc. Easter would not get a look in. Easter is a relic of the amateur age. He is out of shape. How this has passed the highly paid fitness bods at Pennyhill Park I do not know, but looking at him in a tight England jersey is a disgrace. He is carrying weight. Compare him to the back rows of any major rugby power and it becomes embarrassing. Easter is fat, slow and his attitude is, shall we say, on the lax side. I want my number 8 to be an enforcer. If the kiwi back row comes out fists flying, Easter will be on the other side of the pitch, mark my words. He's as hard as a jelly. As an aside (and not that I endorse teh tedious punch throwing of the saffas and Argies), when did you last see Easter get into a scrap?
Now. In Cole, Thompson and Sheridan, England have an acceptable front row. But they don't do they (go with me here)? For despite his size and obvious strength (though he was taken apart by Hayman), Sheridan appears to be as delicate as a little teeny bird. He gets injured at the drop of a hat. And then when he gets injured (say, he cuts his toe nail), he then seems to get some life threatening disease. Never have a I seen such a man mountain with such a delicate proposition. The simple truth is Sheridan will never, ever last an entire world cup, as he will get injured. There is no doubt about this. So why select him? Corbisiero is ok, but hardly in the mould of classic frightening england front rowers. Hartley flatters to deceive. Louis Deacon has been around for years and is nothing more than a club player. Lawes is young and desperately over rated. Tom Wood was badly found out again.
I have run out of energy now.
Its all very well trying to find excuses for MJ. I have read a few. But player selection is HIS job. And he was pointedly failed to find an England midfield which is even club level. While he continues to pick old, slow players in the backs and out of shape players in the forwards. This is simply unnacceptable. I find it offensive having to watch Easter huff and puff around the field, and watch Cueto cut inside as he has no pace.
It personally offends me to watch the desperate quality Englans rugby has been reduced to. And I place much of the blame at the foot of MJ.
To make matters worse, after yet another disgraceful performance, what does MJ and his squad do? Bugger off for a week's holiday. Yep, that is sure to help the backline strong more than 2 passes together.
The whole thing is truly depressing. Almost as depressing as the fact Stuart Broad thinks he is a world beater having bounced out a few bored Indians.