The coaching merry-go-round
11 November, 2011
|Seen here with Fiji ref James Bolabiu (right), NIck Mallet's coaching stint with Italy has now expired. |
There are not that many things in the world of rugby that can be guaranteed, but come November in Europe, you can be sure the top clubs will be pitting their skills against each other. Its Heineken Cup time again along with its little sister, the Amlin Challenge. The former is considered by some to be on a par, if not better than the 'Super 15'.
The second certainty is that come 'post RWC' the coaching merry-go-round will be in full swing. Nearly every one of the 20 nations that competed in New Zealand will be or currently have already reviewed the man who was responsible for the success or failure of their team. Some of those men (coaches) knew their heads would be rolling, regardless of the results. Nick Mallett of Italy and Marc Lièvremont of France were on the way out, after their respective contracts expired, with their successors already in place, and knocking at the door.
For others, the hot seat was/is up for judgment. The Russian coach "jumped" ship, as did the Boks' supremo, Peter de Villiers, who then made himself available again for the post. For the likes of Sam Domoni and Martin Johnson, the review committees would/will determine their fate according to how they saw/see the style of management, selection and play.
Johnson ran a lax regime opening himself up to the critics of the media, but still supported by many of the players involved, perhaps with the exception of a certain Jonny Wilkinson, whose international days are at an end anyway. Compare that with Marc Lièvremont, openly ignored by those who he was meant to be overseeing, and who still nearly took home the Holy Grail.
The man that did get his hands on the cup - Graham.Henry - is now looking at all offers, having ceded the throne. Of those other All Black coaches both Warren Gatland and Robbie Deans look like staying put, while John Kirwan is on the move, criticized for having too many foreign players in the Japanese team. Other lesser nations will probably maintain the status quo, living by the maxim “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” ......
So much for the non Pacific Island nations. The Fiji question looks to be resolving itself, in total contrast to neighboring Samoa who seem to have pushed the self destruct button, despite what they achieved on the field. Tonga is not far behind in a state of melt-down.
As one journalist put it "the Islanders are their own worst enemy."
For many of the coaches last September and October's rugby hiatus in the land of the long white cloud will have been their last and, for some, their only experience of a RWC. But for others there will be a chance under different colours. Top coaches are a rarity and hard to come by. Perhaps less a case of closing doors and more a case of revolving doors. Another job another nation which is also true in some cases for their assistants.
Back to the action, and the Heineken Cup. Two trainers, Vern Cotter of Clermont, and Guy Noves of Toulouse, both of whom chose club rather than country, will be aiming for a place in May's London final, and have brought in a flux of foreign stars to achieve that aim. The group games start this weekend, so those Fijians already installed will have to be at their best to retain their first team places.
News and results as it unfolds next week, along with a look at Tier 2 and 3 nations who may be challenging to play Fiji in the future.
Marc Thompson @ Rugbymarc