Our Man in Carton House

Egg read a very interesting article by Peter O’Reilly over birthday cake on Sunday (he’s 21 again) – the crux of the article was how the bean-counters at Old Fart House are concerned that Ireland’s desperate brand of rugby might impact the bottom line. It’s a valid concern – €75 to see us bitchfight the Pumas? – but something we found equally as interesting was something that wasn’t elaborated upon in the piece – the fact that the 60-0 in Hamilton went unremarked upon at the AGM.

We wonder – is this because the IRFU see themselves as having a personal stake in Deccie, and that criticism of the national team’s results is inherently critical of the union. It’s classic amateur thinking – in a professional organisation, when a vacancy arises, the best candidate is appointed, and after that time, their success or failure depends largely upon how they perform in the role (all provisoed on the assumption they receive adequate support within the organisation and such).

Compare this thinking to how the RFU operated with Johnno. Now, we aren’t saying the RFU are amazingly effective, but they have been whipped into some form of professional shape by Woodward and by the need to negotiate on an equal footing with the businessmen who run the Premiership.

Johnno was hired to succeed Brian Ashton despite having limited coaching experience, but once he got the job and got his preferred backroom appointed, he was on his own with a remit to make England tough again. Results-wise he did ok, and certainly no worse than Deccie – he brought England to a Six Nations championship win and won his RWC11 group – but it was perceived that he was too close to the players and he wasn’t the man to lead England on. So he got canned. The RFU didn’t consider it their business to be embarrassed that they had to let go someone they appointed, they just moved on. Such is life.

In the case of Deccie, it appears to be acceptable to the union that he presides over the worst result in Irish rugby history and is reduced to taking pot-shots at one of the provinces for being unsupportive. All available evidence points to him being in an untenable position, yet the IRFU are content for him to continue as Ireland coach for this season.

It looks from the outside like they see their success as wrapped up in his. Are they reluctant to fire a coach who delivered a Grand Slam, just as they congratulated themselves on appointing him at the time it was won? Is it related to the fact that a selection committee still exist, where IRFU mandarins review Deccie’s plans for each game?  It seems highly unlikely that Deccie’s contract is going to be renewed, so why play the waiting game?  If Declan Kidney’s days are numbered, better to start moving forward now than wallow for another year in stagnation.  It’s a ruthless world out there.

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31 Comments

  1. zdm

     /  September 6, 2012

    I’d say they are reluctant to sack Kidney because they would struggle to find an appropriate replacement – at present, the Irish national team job is probably the fourth most attractive coaching ticket in Ireland, never mind globally. What coach of international repute would take it?

    • KeithEarlsisnota13

       /  September 6, 2012

      Nick Mallet or Michael Chekia ? Carlos Spencer for the backs.I’d even go as far as to suggest John Mitchell as HC.Anyone but Kidney at this stage

      • zdm

         /  September 10, 2012

        Was never that impressed by Mallet as an international coach – I always thought his key skill was his ability to take the heat off a team that was loosing more than it was winning, which is not what Ireland need. For me, I’d love to see Conor O’Shea given the managers post and with someone like Mark McCall on board, although McCall is unlikely to want to play second fiddle to anyone. I was sad to see McCall leave Ulster – he was a very green coach when he was appointed but I think they jettisoned him too early and his sacking diverted attention from the real problem at Ravenhill, which was a stagnant management structure.

  2. Redhanded

     /  September 6, 2012

    My guess is that the IRFU aren’t the sort of organisation who will post up a “position vacant” advert on their website and wait to see what CVs they get in. Judging by the last 2 changes of coaches, they will have a pretty good idea of who they want to appoint by the time the coach’s departure is announced, even if they go through the pretence of interviewing a number of candidates.

    I’d have thought there would be a lot of people interested in the Ireland gig. Recent results notwithstanding, there is a talented group of players, the coach has unparalleled access to them, and unlike some countries, the IRFU is happy to whip those pesky pro clubs into line.

    The question is more what type of coach does the IRFU want? In the case of EOS and Kidney, they seem to have gone for someone who is conservative and who shouldn’t lose too many games.

    • zdm

       /  September 6, 2012

      There would be a lot of people interested but a coach of very high standing is required and I can’t see where we would get one from at the minute.
      As you rightly pointed out, Ireland have an exceptionally talented group of players and yet Kidney, who was widely regarded as the master of man management, who has a pedigree of 2 Heiniken Cups and 1 Celtic League in 4 years, cannot make them fulfil their potential.
      Off the top of my head, I could name fewer than 6 coaches who would be suitable, all of whom are with sucessful clubs or other nations and none of whom I could see leaving to take on the Ireland job.

  3. I wouldn’t hold up the RFU as an example of best practice. Martin Johnson resigned rather than being sacked and he went after a number of confidential reviews were leaked to the press. That led to an internal investigation headed by a former Scotland Yard detective that ended in the threat of legal action and no definitive answer as to who leaked the reports!
    Now, that’s not to defend the IRFU but their problems run deeper. What is it that IRFU Director of Rugby Eddie Wigglesworth does? Is he responsible for the professional game, the amateur game or both? Why do amateur members of the union sit on the PCRG and dictate to professional employees of the union (provincial coaches) who they can sign for their teams? Is the head coach, once appointed, responsible for selecting the remainder of his coaching team and who delegates that responsibility to him? I doubt, for example, that Rob Penney chose Niall O’Donovan as his manager but he’ll be pleased to have him. Jonno Gibbes, Guy Easterby and Johnny Murphy predate Joe Schmidt at Leinster and were all part of Michael Cheika’s backroom staff.
    The lines of responsibility at national level are blurred. That needs to change if the IRFU are to preside over a successful set up.

  4. Radge Fan

     /  September 6, 2012

    Jonno’s big mistake was that he let the England team become tabloid fodder during the world cup. They brought the RFU, rugby etc. into disrepute. He didn’t resign because of the results on the pitch. Basically he was honorable and took responsiblity for his mistakes (not giving the players a right kick up the yard). Not sure I’d want a Rob Andrew type character running the IRFU.

    I have some experience of working (voluntarily) with a sporting organisation and all I can say is that a big issue for the professional staff is the lack of support from the voluntary members. They need support. Who would select all these professional (technical) people to run the sport? Philip Brown’s sporting background is in rowing. Every public organisation has to report to their board of directors (committees) who report to the shareholders (IRFU clubs/members/clubs).

    Demented Mole, I think you have a very simplistic view of the PCRG group – I’d be pretty sure that the Ireland coaching staff would have an input into those decisions (I seem to remember hearing that Paul McNaughton was a member when he was the Ireland Team manager). The PCRG just front up for the flak that they get. Its like civil servants make the decisions and the minister of the dept. delivers the message to the public.

    I can’t see Ireland attracting any big name coaches. Club game is getting to be more important and we are now getting more coaches into the system who have played professional rugby and probably prefer the day-to-day routine of club rugby to international rugby and the amount of travel it entails. I think it will soon be very much an older man’s job who doesn’t mind living out of a suitcase.

    • zdm

       /  September 6, 2012

      I agree that club rugby is very close to taking over from international rugby as the pinnacle of the game.

      I think the ultimate solution is a global season. I was previously dead set against it but it seems to be the most logical solution. The notion of pitch conditions preventing summer rugby just doesn’t apply to the professional era with multimillion pound budgets for groundskeeping so there is no reason why the pro rugby season has to co-incide with autumn/winter anymore (not that seasons make a huge difference in Ireland anyway and I’d personally prefer the slightly warmer summer rain at Ravers to the frigid north-sea driven lashing of a dark Belfast winter night).

      A storm is brewing over the issue of club vs. country – Ireland is somewhat protected by central contracting but there are already rumblings from the west about players not being available for Connacht because they are holding tackle bags for Ireland and I can easily see a situation where Ulster get irked at not being able to pick Chris Henry because he is called up to the 6 N squad and then not selected to play. Equally, what’s the draw for Leinster to constantly have to release Sean O’Brien to the Ireland squad when he is not centrally contracted and Leinster are the ones paying for him to play for Ireland

  5. Johnny H

     /  September 6, 2012

    Should have been pushed out a loooonnng time ago.
    All we can ask is for a coach to pick the in form players rather than the same old tried and failed team, again and again.

  6. Len

     /  September 7, 2012

    Interesting article, as was the BF article you included the link to. Had no idea how the IRFU was organised before reading but this article got me interested so I did a bit of reading. A 23 member committee split into sub committees for everything! No wonder they don’t fire the head coach, by the time they’d be done arguing about it at the various committees the coaches contract would be up. How do they manage to do anything?

    If we want to move forward in a professional manner then the committee needs to take a back seat. Let it become the shareholders of the IRFU and appoint a proper management team of professionals with relevant experience, set them objectives to be reviewed annually and then let them get on with it.

    This new management team could then appoint a coach and support the coach in his dealings with the provences and develope common policies for fitness conditioning, player management etc with the provences. They might actually get somewhere dealing with the provences as professionals as apposed to the semi state regulator approach they currently take.

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone, plenty of thought-provoking stuff.

    I’d find it hard to believe the Irish job wouldn’t be attractive to top class coaches. A new coach coming into the job would be well received in general. It’s not as if the last three years would be a particularly tough act to follow.

    We’ve a talented pool of players, and the centralised pyramid system ensures the national team is of primary importance. I would say that the provinces haven’t become more important so much as more attractive to fans, or more successful. If Team Ireland started to post better results they’d come to the fore of the rugby public’s minds again very quickly.

  8. Radge Fan

     /  September 7, 2012

    Len – Eddie Wigglesworth is IRFU Director of Rugby. He is a professional (who sits on those committees). He used be the CEO of Leinster Rugby. Notes below on his appointment.

    [IRFU] STRATEGIC PLAN (from 1998 when he was appointed).
    His appointment to the top post sees a large part of the IRFU’s strategic development plan now in place.

    Wigglesworth will be responsible for leading, advising and developing IRFU policy and activity relating to the broadening of the base of the game in Ireland.

    He will work closely with the Directors of coaching in each of the provinces -: Mike Ruddock (Leinster), Declan Kidney (Munster ), Glen Ross (Connacht) and Harry Williams (Ulster).

    In addition he will oversee the work of the Provincial Development managers -: Phil Lawlor (Leinster), Mark McDermott (Munster), Tommy Conneely (Connacht) and Rab Gregg (Ulster). Hendrick Kruger the National Youth Development Manager and John Murphy the National Schools Development Manager will also come under his office as well as the various Regional Development Officers throughout each of the provinces.

    All told it represents a sensible and, one hopes, effective network from ground level up.

    President of the IRFU Noel Murphy said last night: “We are delighted to announce Eddie Wigglesworth’s appointment. He brings tremendous enthusiasm, administrative ability and coaching experience to the Rugby Development Department.“

    —–
    Quite a few of those names you see on the committee list are in fact professionals. Hassanein for instance who is on the Rep Game committee is in fact the CEO of IRUPA. They use a committee system to meet regularly to update everyone on their progress with regard to the strategic plan. By the way, you won’t get Irish Sports Council grants if you don’t have a Strategic Plan approved by the Board & Members of the IRFU.

    Big deal about Declan Kidney meeting some IRFU committee men the night before an international – obviously in plenty of time so they can order changes to the game plan and change the lineup of the team that was picked 3/4 days before. LOL!

    • Len

       /  September 7, 2012

      Cheers @Radge Fan didn’t realise that EW had the qualifications. Do you know how autonomous his role is? Do all major decisions go to committee eg firing a coach or would he be free to make those calls himself? Either way it could be time for a change at the top, 15 years in the job is a long time.

      • Radge Fan

         /  September 7, 2012

        Pretty much everything would work to the IRFU Strategic Plan – everyone would be given targets and you’d sink or swim on those. Wigglesworth has pretty much overachieved on his so I don’t know why he would get the sack (Plan is on the IRFU website).

        Kidney won’t be sacked because it would amount to unfair dismissal and the IRFU don’t have the deep pockets of Abromavitch/FA to pay him off.

        As to the appointment of a new coach – look at how Munster did it (it would be in much the same format). A selection panel was set up which included Munster CEO, John Kelly (ex-player), the Financial Controller & Team Manager and I think the Munster Branch President. Looks like the Munster CEO did most of the work – but he has the experience/background to do it. I think David Humphreys seems to have complete control in Ulster which I don’t think is good.

    • Thanks for posting that info Radge Fan. I don’t think anyone thinks for a single moment that the commitee men have power over the team selection, but the image of Deccie having to present it to a bunch of alickadoos the night before a game is pretty striking. Given our history of provincial quotas and selection-by-what-school-you-went-to it’s the sort of thing we should be making a concerted effort to get away from.

      • Radge Fan

         /  September 7, 2012

        The important thing is that there is no evidence of anyone being picked on their old school tie. Its a harmless tradition and a good way of keeping volunteers involved. As pointed out elsewhere, the IRFU couldn’t afford to pay for the expertise provided by the likes of Tom Grace which the IRFU gets for free. The FAI could do with someone like him keeping an eye on things, especially keeping the CEO’s pay within reason. The most professional sporting organisation in the world (probably) – the GAA is more or less entirely run by volunteers.

      • Redhanded

         /  September 7, 2012

        I certainly don’t think the IRFU committee has a say in team selection… but what say do they have in awarding central contracts?

        I wonder sort of discussions would happen if a coach doesn’t want to select anymore a centrally contracted player with a year to go on his contract as he prefers a younger player with a provincial contract?

      • Radge Fan

         /  September 7, 2012

        redhanded – plenty of examples of CC players being dropped/demoted for non CC players – Obvious ones were Stringer for O’Leary, O’Leary for Murray, Luke Fitz for McFadden. D’Arcy was first choice 12 without a CC for about 2 years and Paddy Wallace was hardly ever started and he still has a CC. Leamy for SOB, DOC for Ryan.

        Seems to me they are fairly ruthless with the handing out of contracts – i.e., Luke Fitz. was offered a CC with a paycut and then offer was withdrawn when he didthered over it. Tony Buckley’s offer of a central contract was withdrawn/reduced after a poor performance and he decided to move to Sale rather than try and renegotiate.

  9. Harry Cooper

     /  September 7, 2012

    Sir Clive Woodward, who you mention as the driving force in English rugby, presided over England’s worst defeat in Australia in 1998. 78-0 wasn’t it? How was England’s post RWC2003 form?
    Quoting the eternally peeved Brendan Fanning is also a trite effort, particularly in relation to his speculative jottings about selection policies and procedures for the national team and beyond.
    People follow success and forget margins when it suits them. Wales appear to be deemed runaway victors in the Six Nations and on the crest of a wave yet . . . it wasn’t quite that plain or simple now was it? England’s Johnson troublesome tenure is framed above with that old favourite “but” condition.

  10. Casey Ryback

     /  September 7, 2012

    Given the talented players available to Ireland, I would think the Ireland coach’s job would be VERY attractive -you don’t want to take over the top job when the team is winning everything, you want to take over at the bottom; which is where we are now!

    • Radge Fan

       /  September 7, 2012

      I seem to recall that there were 2 applicants for the job after Eddie (Ireland were at rock bottom), neither of which were suitable. It was rumoured that the IRFU tried to headhunt Heyneke Meyer & Jake White – neither were interested. Pat Howard was another one mentioned. Kidney was the last resort.

      I seem to remember at the time that Munster (having just won another HC) got about 14 applicants (including Gert Smal) who had been SA’s world cup forwards coach.

      • Casey Ryback

         /  September 7, 2012

        Fair point Radge Fan.

        However, I can’t help but think the other 13 are, with the benefit of hindsight, delighted that McGahan got the Munster job.

  11. Len

     /  September 7, 2012

    Going back to the initial point about the 60 – 0 not being mentioned at the AGM. I think the IRFU need to look into, not specifically this game as I think the soul crushing defeat the week before may have been the main cause to the 60 – 0, but to the general lack of consistency in Irish performances.

    In 09 we were consistent throughout the six nations, not brilliant (apart from the French game) but consistent. Since then each season has seen opauling performances followed a week later by brilliance (granted these are getting fewer and further between). Think of the performance against England in 11.

    That seems to be our biggest issue. Who’s to blame? Coach, players or IRFU? Personally I don’t see how the IRFU can take much of the blame which leaves coach and players. Both share the blame in my opinion. The coach seems out of ideas or just unwilling to change. Players fail to bring their club form to the green jersey. I don’t know if there just not as committed to Ireland as they are to the Provence or if it’s something else. Either way a solution needs to be found.

    • Radge Fan

       /  September 7, 2012

      Len – I’d say the IRFU want to keep their head down on the 60-0 in case someone might start asking questions as to why those guys were having an 11 month season with no break. It was ludicrous that Ireland had to head back to NZ a few months after being there for the world cup to play 3 tests. The final test against NZ was Sean O’Brien’s 28th game of the season (and he was carrying an injury). It was Richie McCaw’s 13th game of his season. Enda McNulty (some of the Leinster players sports psychologist) put the poor performance in the last test down to the length of the season. Even said Brad Thorn thought it was crazy to have to do that after the season they had.

      But, the IRFU need the money.

      • Anonymous

         /  September 7, 2012

        When you put it like that it seems ludicrous that the tour was ever considered or that players like SOB had to travel having played so many games in the year. I understand the IRFU needs the revenue but once every three years they should switch the summer tour to a development squad. Either that or they need to figure out more ways to utilise the facilities they have to plug the revenue gap from the summer tour.

      • I’m not fully convinced by this argument. It was McCaw’s thirteenth game because their season was only at its halfway point at the time. Without doubt last season was really, really long, especially being a World Cup year and all of that. But it was just as long for the Welsh and English, and they were competitive in their last game on tour. Besides, just one week earlier Ireland almost beat the Kiwis and played brilliantly. So I think it was more of a combination of the spirit-crushing nature of the defeat the week before and the fact that the players knew they were going home afterwards. Having their bags packed in advance and having the return flight so close to match time probably weren’t a good idea, and the IRFU might have to ship a bit of blame for that.

      • Radge Fan

         /  September 10, 2012

        It doesn’t matter what the circumstances were – the facts are that Ireland were at the end of a very long hard season and NZ were only really nicely warmed up and they were at home, whereas Ireland were on their 2nd tour right around the world within 6 months.

        Wales could afford to send out most their team to Aus early (keeping back fringe players to play against the Ba-Baas). Most the Welsh team had a few weeks off because they were not involved in the finals of the HCup whereas Ireland had two teams in that final and one team in the Magners final.

        Then have a look at the Ireland injuries – POC, Ferris & Bowe completely missing the tour. Ross, D’Arcy, Earls, Heslip picking up injuries and missing games and SOB carrying an injury all season is all going to have an effect. Wales were missing Jamie Roberts out of their starters and they still couldn’t win in Aus.

        Really worth listing to what Enda McNulty had to say http://www.rte.ie/radio1/thejohnmurrayshow/2012-06-27.html . (about 3/4 ways in – last 10 mins or so of the show).

        While I would take everything that the Irish Independent (Kelly & Fanning) too seriously, the rumour that Kidney was refused permission to bring Ian Madigan on a cost basis (considering the IRFU made a 6m profit) might be another reason why the IRFU didn’t want too much discussion at the AGM about the 60-0. It would also make you wonder is that why Paddy Wallace didn’t travel with the squad to NZ in the first place.

    • Radge Fan

       /  September 7, 2012

      The IRB co-ordinate the tours – Ireland were a bit unlucky to draw NZ this year. Its mainly a back scratching exercise in that Ireland would be expected to send as many of their top players to NZ so that next time NZ are playing in Ireland they too will field their top players. As it was, POC & Ferris were missing the tour and there was a lot of relatively unknowns in the Irish team (Henry, Ryan, Tuohy, Peter O’Mahony, Zebo, Cave).

      • Len

         /  September 10, 2012

        Think you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head with the ‘relatively unknowns’. Due to the Irish managements unwillingness to blood new players unless forced to do so through injury or retirement we end up at the end of a long season going on tour with inexperienced players. This harps back to Decci’s criticism of Ulster for not giving Dec Fitz enough game time yet when the opportunity presents itself to play Fitz Decci instead opts for Tom Court who has proven time and again that he can’t play tight head. I wish the media would start calling Decci on these comments in interviews (I know that’ll never happen as it would be professional suicide for any RTE sports presenter, still I can hope). I don’t foresee any real change to this policy for the rest of Decci’s tenur with the possible exception of Downey who’s back in Ireland and might get a chance.

  12. Redhanded

     /  September 10, 2012

    Calling up DK for some of his comments does mean the journo needs both some cojones and some facts. On the point about Declan Fitzpatrick not getting enough game time, D Fitz was, of course injured from Dec 11 to Apr 12, so I assume DK thinks D Fitz should have got some more game time before his injury?

    if he had really wanted this, then presumably the Players Advistory Group (or whatever it has called) should have vetoed the signing of Afoa… but even if they didn’t, DK could still have asked that D Fitz got a certain amount of game time? Did DK do that? A clued up journalist could have asked?

    • Radge Fan

       /  September 10, 2012

      Dec Fitzpatrick has played on average 6 games a season for Ulster over the last 6 seasons. I think it was down to being very injury prone more than not being selected by the Ulster management. What did Kidney actually say about Ulster not using Fitzpatrick?

      Len – we’ve just completed a world cup cycle. Henry & Tuohy have toured with Ireland before. Peter O’Mahony, Zebo & Cave are the new kids on the block. (For the record, I don’t expect to see too much of Henry, Tuohy or Cave in a green shirt in the future and it will probably be a while before we see a lot of O’Mahony & Zebo due to competition when all are fit and available.

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