Should England Be Coached By A Professional, Or A Comedian?

I don’t need to tell you what a shambolic farce Great Britain and England have been at International level over the last 30+ years.

Promises are made, lots of big, bold statements, a big build up, and then, well…we all know what happens.

The fact that we are coming off of a Four Nations competition last year in which England were seen to have made big strides, but still got destroyed in the final, on home soil, against Australia says it all.

The final siren had barely finished signaling the end of the massacre when England coach Tony Smith, a man given more money and resources than any other coach in the history of the international game, scurried away from his post, quitting to take a cushy job with a Super League side that was already built for him.

Now, the Rugby Football League are looking for a new England coach.

To understand why this process is such a broken mess, you have to understand what drives the game of Rugby League in England.


Rugby League in England is not about real sporting achievement, it is not about pushing the boundaries of performance, finding new marks of excellence or overcoming the odds.

Its about being able to boast about what you have achieved, even if in the eyes of many, your achievements are of no significance. Its about being the big fish in the small pond, about being able to hold a trophy over your head, any trophy, and disregard all your previous, or following failures.

Its the English way, the right way.

In that environment, the RFL have decided they want a British coach to coach the English side. Why? Well, because obviously a British coach is the right choice to make.

The RFL have also said that they want the England coach to be a full time appointment, flying in the fact of every other successful International or representative Rugby League team in the world. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

So far the Rugby Football League have interviewed Dennis Betts, who is currently an assistant coach at a Rugby Union team, Steve McNamara, who is currently coaching a failing Bradford Bulls team, Richard Agar, who coaches Hull FC and performed so well over his tenure at the club that fans have openly petitioned to have him sacked, and Brian McDermott of the Harlequins Rugby League team, who’s performance with a handy squad of places has been so good in recent years that the RFL itself has told the club they risk being kicked out of the competition.

Of these four candidates, three of them could very well find themselves fired for under performing at club level over the next few months.

Instead of the RFL deciding it wants its elite England squad to be given elite coaching, they have gone along the lines that a local can get the job done. Local ways, local knowledge, thats the way to build a winner.

Yet clearly, after 30 years of embarrassing defeats that have seen Great Britain and England go from big crowds at Wembley stadium, to boasting of playing in front of a possible sellout crowd of 10,000 in Leigh in a few months time, the penny has yet to drop.

England need a current, top flight Australian coach. They need an expert in the modern day game. Someone with the technical knowledge and skill to be able to formulate a game plan that will best suit England against its better opponents. Someone who can identify problems a player has, and help them correct those problems in a few short weeks.

Australia doesn’t have a full time coach. New Zealand doesn’t have a full time coach. New South Wales doesn’t have a full time coach. Mal Meninga doesn’t coach another team, but he could hardly claim to be a full time coach either.

The idea that you need to employ someone 12 months of the year, taking them out of the melting pot of ideas, tactics and training methods, is completely and utterly wrong.

England should be looking at who they can get to improve their performance. The best candidate for the job. Would anyone care where the coach came from if he could actually help England win something? I don’t think so.

The Rugby Football League should be looking to the likes of Brian Smith, someone who has proven he can take a terrible team, sort them out very quickly, and leave a lasting legacy behind.

The Rugby Football League should be looking at Wigan coach Michael Maguire, who took over a complete shambles of a team and has formed them into the best side in Super League in just one off season.

They should look at Wayne Bennett, who did wonders with New Zealand after spending just a few weeks with them, let alone with what he has achieved at club level.

They should be knocking down Phil Goulds door, throwing money at him and begging the master of representative coaching to take on one last challenge in his career and help turn England around.

Imagine if England took a coaching team into the next World Cup of Michael Maguire as the head coach, Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler as assistant coaches a toughened Australian strength and conditioning coach.

All of that winning experience, all of that Rugby League knowledge……isn’t that what the RFL’s goal should be?

Instead, once again, England will look within to improve. To players that grew up in generations of losing, who have never experienced being at the top, and who don’t know themselves what it takes to be the best.

Throwing aside the talent gap, who do you take in a coaching battle. Dennis Betts, or multiple premiership winner and coaching legend Tim Sheens?

The RFL want something that does not exist. A top class British Rugby League coach. They need to end their current search and start a new one. One that will at least give England a fighting shot at winning something.

Liked it? Take a second to support League Freak on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply