Mounting pressure on national team coach not for the faint-hearted
On Rugby:I want you to imagine you are the head coach of a national rugby team. In the past few months you have sacked a legend as captain. The greatest player your country has ever produced wanted to remain as captain but you went against conventional wisdom and removed him.
You appointed a potentially excellent captain, who is without doubt the future leader of the national team. Many wise observers thought your decision was flawed as it was not the right time to change leadership.
Then your outstanding outhalf was injured. You repeat your behaviour on the decision-making of the captaincy. Once again you ignored the proven champion.
Your reputation as a coach rose on the back of extraordinary performances from this player. His skill and tactical excellence have won you Heineken Cups and a Grand Slam. You have coached this champion for close on 20 years. Despite this you ignore him and select a highly talented 21-year-old for his first cap.
After this decision, whatever personal relationship you had with the champion is effectively over. You knew your decision would humiliate him. You did not want this to occur, as you deeply respect him, but you had to do what you believed was right for the team.
You gave the 21-year-old the goal- kicking responsibilities, yet he has not kicked for his club for several months. You know that points from goal-kicking are crucial in the success or failure at international level. The kid is the future but many question your decision as they believe he is not ready to be the general your team desperately needs.
In the past, what the media have said did not affect you. Lately, deep in your heart, you have been questioning if the years of unrelenting pressure have affected the quality of your decision making. This concerns you deeply.
Your team is trying to play a high-tempo passing game. It is a style that reflects the national spirit. It is positive and attractive to watch. When the team get it right it is a wonderful thing to behold, but over the last three seasons they have played to their potential only in smatterings.
In the most recent game your attempted match plan was met with great bravery and courage by the opposition but their tactics were powered by unmitigated negativity. The officiating turned the match into a drudgery that penalised the positive and rewarded the negative.
Despite this, your team did everything to win but score points.
The young outhalf played very well on debut but, in missing easy points, his very creditable performance was drowned in an ocean of criticism of his goal-kicking. Your decision to select him was ridiculed.