No big surprise: Coaches and Players held to different standards again

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No big surprise: Coaches and Players held to different standards again Empty No big surprise: Coaches and Players held to different standards again

Post by Rugby Fan on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 1:14 pm

"I personally feel very passionate that if you want to play for the Lions you prove to us that you want to play for the Lions."

This was the last Lions Team Manager, Andy Irvine, talking after Jonny Wilkinson had declined Warren Gatland's offer of a place on the tour to Australia. Wilkinson has a Top14 final on the 1st June, which was also the date of the first Lions fixture against the Barbarians in HK. For Irvine, the example of Nathan Hines bailing on his club to join the 2009 tour was the sign of real Lions spirit, and he cited the example regularly.

Will Carling also turned down a place on the tour to South Africa in 1997, "therefore becoming the only player I can ever remember opting out of a Lions tour, a sad decision," according to McGeechan at the time. Carling has since explained his reasons in public (he already did so in private when asked), and they are much the same as Wilkinson's. They both respected the Lions too much to take a place knowing they couldn't give it everything.

This year, we have the example of four coaches taking themselves out of the running: Jones, Schmidt, Townsend & O'Halloran. I haven't yet heard anyone from the Lions side suggesting these men lack the right character to be involved.

I think this is just another example of how rugby regularly demands higher standards of loyalty and commitment from players compared with other paid professionals in the sport. Coaches, administrators. analysts, medics, fitness and conditioning experts are free to work for whoever they want, and are often applauded for their breadth of experience. This is not always true of players, who often see doors closing when they look overseas.

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Post by Recwatcher16 on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 1:31 pm

It is also curious that clubs who offer contracts to foreign players are generally denounced as just being rich and buying in talent but Unions can appoint anyone they like and everyone applauds. Don't even mention project players.....
Ten of the top twenty Test sides have a kiwi coach, another four have a non indigenous coach but somehow that does not devalue 'Test' rugby.

Union has always been a subjective game but professionalism really squeezes the original values.

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Post by Presuming Ed on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 1:38 pm

Or a reflection that in these days of summer tours, autumn internationals and world cups, the Lions tour is no longer that important in the grand scheme of things. I love the Lions but prefer to watch England play.

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Post by Guest on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 1:52 pm

...or it's the start of the end for the Lions? As the game becomes more pro I think we'll start to see players (maybe even this tour) deciding to opt out. We have players and perhaps even some young coaches who never knew the amateur game, perhaps haven't played with any Lions from the bygone era. Players are much more mindful about their earning potential, short careers, the effect that a Lions tour can have on players mentally and physically. It's a big risk. The kudos that was once attached to being a Lion is possibly being eroded as it's maybe not the pinnacle that it once was. These factors will add up and may dissuade more and more people from taking part. Rather than opting out because they can't give it their all (a la Jonny) I reckon we'll see it more for self-preservation and to maintain momentum with the international side.

I've loved the Lions since I started properly supporting and watching rugby around the 1997 tour. Loved that one, loved 2001, even loved 2005 even though it was car crash TV, loved 2009 in SA, sort of enjoyed 2013 but 606 and the views of fans (increasingly a part of rugby now with social media) left a sour taste for me. But I think that tour was a real reflection of the way in which the Lions has started to slip in the eyes of the fans. As much as it pains me to say it, I think the Lions now has a very finite shelf life. Not sure how long, but I think as soon as coaches and players start to rule themselves out in order to concentrate on other things then there's no point to it. If the top stars start to rule themselves out then the whole marketing of the Lions is hit, it's not so attractive to the host nation and then before long it just becomes like a B&I Baa Baas.

We've also got players now who are fully pro and are conscious of things like image rights, marketability. We've got massive egos that comes from from sport, unlike in the amateur days (although I'm sure there were some). Only 15 players will start - yet there's 60 first teamers currently in the 4 nations represented. Then factor in some bolters and dark horses who might make the first 15. That's a LOT of first teamers who will miss out and who's ego may be dented. I reckon there'll be a few club and international coaches having a quiet word and saying, "you know what, you're unlikely to make the test team. Why not stay here and captain your own international side on the summer tour"; or team physicians recommending a good rest; or team psychologists worrying players about the effects on confidence, etc.

It's the start of the end, I tell you!

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Post by the-goon on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 4:15 pm

Recwatcher16 wrote:It is also curious that clubs who offer contracts to foreign players are generally denounced as just being rich and buying in talent but Unions can appoint anyone they like and everyone applauds. Don't even mention project players.....
Ten of the top twenty Test sides have a kiwi coach, another four have a non indigenous coach but somehow that does not devalue 'Test' rugby.

Union has always been a subjective game but professionalism really squeezes the original values.

I think I just voted down your post, didn't mean to, was curious what the button did. Anyway, as you were.

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Post by marty2086 on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 4:24 pm

Rugby Fan wrote:
This year, we have the example of four coaches taking themselves out of the running: Jones, Schmidt, Townsend & O'Halloran. I haven't yet heard anyone from the Lions side suggesting these men lack the right character to be involved.

I think this is just another example of how rugby regularly demands higher standards of loyalty and commitment from players compared with other paid professionals in the sport. Coaches, administrators. analysts, medics, fitness and conditioning experts are free to work for whoever they want, and are often applauded for their breadth of experience. This is not always true of players, who often see doors closing when they look overseas.

It is different standards because they have different jobs, a player is replaceable but a coach sets the agenda, training, style, tactics etc and not so easily replaced

Jones and Schmidt I believe have both stated they see it as an opportunity to work with some of the players they haven't had much chance to so far and can assess them over a period of time.

Townsend would be turning down the chance to coach some of Scotlands players for the first time

Gatland on the other hand will still be working with most of the Wales squad sure Whistle

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Post by TJ on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 4:46 pm

Also the clash in styles - can you imagine Gatland and Townsend agreeing on tactics?

Whether youagree with them or not Gatland likes a very structured game with a "first make no mistakes" mentality. Townsend much less structured and "play whats in front of you"

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Post by SecretFly on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 6:07 pm

Rugby Fan wrote:
I think this is just another example of how rugby regularly demands higher standards of loyalty and commitment from players compared with other paid professionals in the sport. Coaches, administrators. analysts, medics, fitness and conditioning experts are free to work for whoever they want, and are often applauded for their breadth of experience. This is not always true of players, who often see doors closing when they look overseas.

I think you're tying together too many disparate things and attempting to create a unifying theory.  Players going abroad to play have sometimes/often the International door closed on their faces mostly because of a National policy to protect functioning rugby in the Nations they choose to leave.  In order to protect rugby within a Nation (all of it - club and International) there must be an incentive for the best players to stay with indigenous clubs, to generate interest, to make money, to invest in the future and to sustain all rugby in the Nation.  If International players were picked in bulk from players that plied their club trade outside the country then the quality of rugby within that Nation would inevitably suffer and regress.
On the other hand, coaches saying they would rather not take up the invitation to join with the Lions are not exactly saying no to the Nation that employs them - they are saying no to a four yearly combined touring side.  They are prioritising their job with the Nation that employs them.  To me that total integrity.  To me that full blooded Character.  Nation above all else.

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Post by Not grey and not a ghost on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 7:45 pm

Just a point. These coaches are all professionals. Employed by unions to coach their teams. Only Townsend is actually British/Irish. In other words most are there earning cash and furthering their careers. They have the option of being a support role in a great team/tradition vs meeting their performance standards. Townsend is a new head coach, taking over from Cotter. I'm not surprised he wants to concentrate on the Scottish side. The key point is players should have an attachment to playing for the Lions, not so much the coaches.


Last edited by Not grey and not a ghost on Fri 16 Dec 2016, 2:57 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by Rugby Fan on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 8:12 pm

SecretFly wrote:...I think you're tying together too many disparate things and attempting to create a unifying theory....
You're right, it would be too simplistic to find one driving trend, and I think I'm far from coming up with one myself.

I suppose I'm struck by how convoluted the thinking gets when the values of rugby come up for discussion. Irvine thinks Nathan Hines ditching his club for the Lions marks him out as an ultimate rugby man, and yet it's not obvious to me that leaving your club in the lurch at a key moment in their season is a good thing. Indeed, Townsend and Jones are being praised in some quarters for turning down the Lions precisely because they have prior responsibilities as national coaches.

One reading would suggest a loyalty hierarchy of Club < Lions < Country, and yet I suspect Andy Irvine would be unimpressed by a player who turned down a Lions tour to try and stay in prime shape for his country.

Coaches don't always get a free pass. Jones and Ella were taunted in Australia for having the temerity to celebrate an England victory, and Cheika continued the theme this month by suggesting Jones was tarnishing his legacy. If Clive Woodward had succeeded in his attempt to coach France, then the reaction in England would have been interesting.

In fact, we almost got an an earlier run of that when Ian McGeechan was apparently asked if he would like to be considered as the next England coach after Jack Rowell. It's one of his regrets that he turned the chance down. He said later

There's no doubt I would have found it difficult to bring England to Murrayfield but that wasn't something I couldn't have overcome.

On the subject of McGeechan, there's an awful lot to respect about the man but I'm disappointed he thought Carling was the only player he could recall who turned down a Lions tour spot. You'd think he might remember John Taylor turning down the 1974 Lions tour to South Africa because he opposed apartheid.  After all, that's a tour he went on himself.

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Post by tooboredtowork on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 11:42 pm

If I was the RFU, it would be a condition of his employment, that Jones would not go with the Lions.
He is a canny operator. Not only will he want to work with some different players, he would also want to work with some different coaches. He gets that chance with Borthwick off with the Lions.
I think it would have reflected poorly on him if Townsend had not gone on tour with Scotland at his first opportunity.

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