It’s been a topsy-turvy twelve months or so in all association’s with English sport. Firstly, England hosted the Rugby World Cup, but a disastrous campaign saw the home nation fail to progress past the group stages.
But a few months later, England, who had a new manager at at the helm following Stuart Lancaster’s resignation, won the Six Nation’s with five victories from five games, completing their first Grand Slam win since 2003.
During these periods, the England football team was in complete control of their Euro 2016 qualifiers, with Roy Hodgson’s side winning all ten of their games, sending the Three Lions to France as the only side with a 100% record.
However, the result in France was polar opposite to the qualifiers, with England winning just one of their three group games, going through in 2nd, before one of the nation’s most embarrassing international defeats; a 2-1 loss to the lowest ranked side in the competition, Iceland.
Like Lancaster after the Rugby World Cup, Hodgson resigned from his position. But can the English football team replicate the success of the rugby team?New Red and Whites manager, Eddie Jones, has not only won the Six Nation’s, but he has also led the country to a nine game unbeaten run, and to top that off, he has whitewashed Australia in their own back yard with a 3-0 series win; the first time England have done that since 1971.
So does it come down to a change of manager? A change of attitude? A change of structure? The Sports Lowdown looks at how the English rugby side has changed its fortune’s, and we’ll assess whether or not the Football side can emulate them.
After a dismal World Cup campaign in which England hosted the tournament, head coach Stuart Lancaster stepped down from his role as manager.
Despite winning their opening encounter against Fiji 35-11, back to back defeats (25-28 vs Wales and 13-33 vs Australia) left Lancaster’s men on the brink of failure. Despite a rampant 60-3 victory over Uruguay, England failed to progress to the finals; becoming the first host nation to do so.
Following their exit and resignation of their manager, the RFU (Rugby Football Union) Chief Executive Ian Ritchie looked long and hard for the right replacement. The usual suspects were thrown into the hat, but Ritchie and the board opted, controversially, for their first ever foreign manager – Australian Eddie Jones.
Jones was due to take charge at South African side, the Stormers, after he guided Japan to the World Cup in England, famously beating the Springboks in their opening fixture. But the offer from the RFU was too good for the 56 year old to turn down.
Jones’ arrival at Twickenham was mixed. The Australian brought a wealth of experience with him, but becoming the first foreign manager had a stigma attached that many England fans didn’t want. But what they did want was something that Jones successfully achieved.
Jones rearranged the backroom staff, and also gave a sense of belief to some of the less confident players in the squad. England headed into the Six Nation’s undeterred by their World Cup woe, and full of confidence under new management and coaching staff.
A 9-15 win in Scotland got the ball rolling for Jones in his first competitive game as manager, before a comprehensive 9-40 victory in Italy. Jones’ first game at Twickenham was approaching, but the English held on to beat Ireland 21-10, before all but sealing the Grand Slam with a 25-21 victory over Wales. A win in France, against France, would give England their first Grand Slam win since 2003, but the French buckled under pressure, losing their crunch game against Wales, leaving England to win the Six Nation’s. Just for confirmation, England then headed to France and recorded a 21-31 victory to remain unbeaten in the tournament.
From boo’s at Twickenham as England lost against Australia in the World Cup, to jubilation as the Red and Whites secured the Grand Slam. Jones was working his magic.
It could have stopped their, but it didn’t. Jones, who was appointed on a four year contract to oversee the nation’s qualification to the 2019 World Cup, then took his side down south to face his former employers, Australia.
England won their opening test 39-28, before winning the series with a 23-7 victory. But Jones wanted more. He wanted to complete the whitewash, and that’s exactly what he achieved. England beat the Aussies 44-40 in their final match to win all three test games for the first time since 1971.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround from England, and the RFU deserve great credit following the appointment of Jones. There was controversy, there was uncertainty, but Jones has delivered without a blip thus far.
Following England’s premature exit from Euro 2016 and the resignation of their manager, Roy Hodgson, the FA are in the same position as the RFU were a mere nine months ago.
It may take time to appoint their next manager, but one thing is for certain, the FA must appoint the right man for the job in order to bury their poor recent displays. Look at Jones, it may have been controversial, but a Grand Slam and whitewash against Australia has put the disaster of a World Cup campaign behind them, with the future, seemingly looking bright.
That said, the FA have tried, and failed, in the past when it comes to the appointment of a new manager. Although Fabio Capello was, and remains, the most successful manager in terms of win percentage, he failed to get past the quarter-finals of a major tournament, and was on an insane paycheck to get the Three Lions there. It was a similar story with Sven-Goran Eriksson; quarter-finals and penalty woes continued, whilst the FA gave him a huge sum of money.
Hodgson, on paper seemed a sensible choice at the time, despite Harry Redknapp being the odds on favourite to replace Capello. Hodgson brought experience, from in the Premier League, European league’s and international.
And despite bringing a group of talented youth through to the senior set up, Hodgson failed to deliver on the most important part of his job – managing.
The FA have to find the right man. They’ve tried, they’ve failed, but now they should have no excuses. England boast one of the world’s best training facilities at St George’s Park, have incredible behind the scenes staff with the likes of sports science, and have some talented youngsters coming through the ranks in the likes of Dele Alli and Marcus Rashford, with Harry Kane, albeit slightly older, and Raheem Sterling. All the above players, in fact the entire squad, lacked management and discipline in France, and that must be the new managers first task at the helm.