I have heard, in the last few moments that there are now 2 live inquiries into the England Rugby World Cup fiasco and one dead one. (Fran Cotton is presumably grazing his four cabbages this morning with stoic indifference, having feared or expected further administrative chaos). “Cock-up – again” I hear him saying. Thus the last word kindof becomes the first?
Any time now he will get the nod. Probably initially in airless private but soon mindlessly beaming members of an alleged hierarchy will be chivvying him towards the public, grey but humming hotseat. Thus the All New England Rugby Manager will meet the press; meet us plebs.
There will no doubt follow a platitude-fest of second row proportions. Eventually, once even the journalists are bored of hearing the flawless laundry that is Managerstuff rinse and repeat relentlessly, the hierarchy (yet to be announced) will commit further overfamiliar but nonetheless profoundly inept acts of ushering to get their man out to a waiting bar – I mean car. Safely ensconced in the back of this dark but bland executive vehicle he will breathe deeply – very deeply – and then consider what the fuck he has done… as, no doubt, will the ushers.
In this rare moment of privacy The All New England Manager may reconsider his options whilst leafing through a dossier on the current playing staff, material that is unlikely to energise the soul but may – if the mood were lighter – provide a few laffs. What could be funnier than a royal wedding failure/a humiliated chambermaid/a swallow dive off a ferry? (Okay, I think the latter was mildly amusing and Tuilagi’s undeniable talent insulates him from further unnecessary flak. But the list of positives from – appropriately? – the WC is surely hysterically brief?) Of the 153,276 words featured in the review imagined by my good self, ‘crushing’, ‘boring’ and ‘he constitutes another loose cannon’ are statistically prevalent. Sensing this, the staff driver (I picture a Devonian prop with tractor driver’s sideburns and a whimsical nature) at this point knowingly produces a hip-flask and a wink. “Wait ’til you get to page 3 boss”.
On page 3 there is a discussion on the Captaincy Issue which may or may not suggest that Mad Dog Wilkinson is still considered a suitable force for er… English crypto-buddhist wholesomeness. Oh, and the captaincy. Only slightly more surprising is the revelation that the hierarchy are also looking at the following as live candidates for the role;
Andy Ripley; Fay Weldon; Julian Barnes; Mahatma Ghandi.
The driver’s eyebrows have arched.
But we, in our frothy excitement, get ahead of ourselves. Who will be choosing the captain? Woodward? Mallender? Henry? Or can talk of Johnson’s survival be right? Given that pretty immediately prior to this All New Captain thing the over-riding impulse of the (yet to be announced) hierarchy would certainly have been to find a Manager who will be a safe pair of hands whilst the team is (again) ‘in transition’, we might reasonably fear exposure to a worryingly imaginative choice scenario. In other words, a foreigner. Assuming Martin Johnson is jettisoned – on merit – the pool of realistic candidates (my cheap jibes notwithstanding) would need to include those of a Tri-Nation persuasion, surely?
Unless there’s a fait accompli favouring somebody like Clive Woodward? Or is it ludicrous to wonder if Henry has been tapped up with some elder statesman role in mind… with Shaun Edwards as enforcer? Fanciful but interesting? Gadzooks! Could English rugby turn out interesting? Contemplation of that question makes me return to the thought – already expressed in certain papers – that Martin Johnson will stay in post. This is such a laughable proposition that it fits almost perfectly the mould – giant-sized cock-up revisited.