Aging Lions maul coach Warren Gatland

June 19, 2017

Warren Gatland

 

In advance of Saturday’s test match against New Zealand’s All Blacks, [scheduled 24 June 2017] Warren Gatland, the coach of the British and Irish Lions is mauled in a bitter attack by Rugby Union pundits around the world, including former Lion players

Gatland’s heinous blunder

His crime? Dealing with a series of injuries to his squad, Gatland made the decision to call up additional support from members of the Welsh and Scottish teams, touring in the region.

A storm of protest burst out, led by England coach Eddie Jones, whose team is touring in Argentina, half way around the world. The headline Eddie Jones says what we have all been thinking about Gatland’s supposed call-ups sums up the nature of the ‘debate’.

Revenge attacks?

I was struck by both the ferocity and uniformity of the attacks. Gatland had triggered an avalanche of criticism. In some ways, this can be traced to disenchantment with Gatland, who will resume his role as coach to the Welsh national team after the tour.  Accusations of bias have followed Gatland from the outset of this tour against the world champions, who are odds-on favourites to win the three-test series.

His original selections were viewed as biased in favour of players he knew and trusted from Wales, and why strong candidates from England were omitted. The objections were mostly from the English media. Garland was criticized for Nationalistic bias, an ironic charge for someone of New Zealand not Newport Gwent roots.

Players omitted from the England squad were outspoken.

During the few weeks of the tour in June, tour criticism of Gatland built up. The coach was put on the defensive.

The emotional argument

So, returning the six replacements, the emotional argument against the extra six players can be summarized simply. Commentator after commentator echoed it:

 

“The decision devalues the Lions’ shirt

 

Few seemed to find it necessary to add (as Gatland found it necessary to point out) that the decision was reached  after long discussions by the international management coaching team of the Lions. Nor was there comment on how these players the pundits dismissed as not fit to wear the shirt might react, if their team mates on their arrival treated them as second-class citizens.

Historical baggage?

There seemed a lot of historical baggage about the media treatment of the story. For example:

England’s former Lion Jeremy Guscott found headlines in a half-time roasting of the Welsh team against Japan in the last World Cup. In particular, he blasted the Lions on the pitch.  Ironically, Wales upped their game against Japan, and Japan contributed to a display which led to the humiliation of England on home soil and the eventual appointment of new coach Eddie Jones.

Returning to the present controversy, even a Welsh rugby great has weighed in.

Jonathan Davies is a much-loved national figure who has suffered hardships and tragedy in his personal life with fortitude and public grace. His views are generally forthright and honest. He again took the devaluing the Lion shirt line.

Putting my frayed academic nightcap and bed socks on, and supping my Ovaltine, I suspect each player is demonstrating the core issue of social identity. Pundit Guscott now preserves his aura of greatness earned as a Lion through the symbolism of the brand. Davies never achieved the honour of playing for the Lions, as he made the painful decision to leave the amateur game of Rugby Union to support his family as a rugby league player, returning later as professionalism entered the Union code.

Gatland’s stubborn streak

There is a well-known streak of stubbornness about Gatland, although no more than the one apparent in the public pronouncements of Eddie Jones.

The test series may well be lost to the mighty All Blacks. If so, it would be helpful to conduct post-mortems in a more clinical fashion than the ‘expert’ diagnoses to date.

Advertisements

Wales v Japan: surrogate revenge against Jones the coach?

November 19, 2016
Wales rugby ball
Today there is a festival of sport to enjoy. One of the highlights in our household is the rugby match at the Millennium Stadium, where Wales take on Japan
 We are a mostly harmonious sport-watching household, with affiliations to Wales, Scotland, and more than a smidgen of affection for Ireland, and New Zealand after a blissful sabbatical at Christchurch, since much battered by dreadful earthquakes.
England v Australia
In far too early a start, the morning [Saturday 19 NOvember 2016] begins as England briefly promise  to rescue a hopeless situation against India, in Cricket. At lunch, as I write this post (6am GMT), they are still tantalizingly close to avoiding the following on (the humiliation forced on a test team outplayed by 200 runs in the first innings battle).
Man U v The Gunners
There are several fixture clashes. The afternoon starts with one of those crunch games in football, this one between Manchester United and Arsenal. A veritable nine pointer. (Sorry, three points to the winner.  Easy to get carried away).
Murray v Raonic v Djokovic  
Then overlapping events. Andy Murray sets out to reach the final of the Tennis World Championships, trying to hold on to his recent status as world No 1 singles player. His brother Jamie achieved to same lofty status, and not for the first time,  just a day ago in doubles. Later, Novak Djokovic also competes to win back his crown.
The battle may be resolved in a monumental clash tomorrow.
Wales v Japan at Rugby
And Wales play Japan at rugby. Until recently, this would have been regarded somewhat patronizingly in the land of my fathers.then there was the World Cup when Japan became everyone’s favourite second team for their courage and skill. Their coach  Eddie Jones was an instant celebrity. Was he Welsh, we wondered, before discerning that his Mum was Japanese. Maybe his Ozzie Dad had some Celtic blood from somewhere, Old rather than than New South Wales, perhaps? We had a captain once called Eddie (Butler).
The Jones boy goes From Hero to Villain
Then the reason for his fall from grace. He left his coaching appointment in Japan to become chief of an ailing England team.  Need I say more?  He began a run which currently stands as ten successive victories.  England are heading for the top in world rugby.  Wales may struggle against Japan.
At least, in the language of the wretched US presidential campaign, we have a surrogate to disapprove of, as the gallant Japanese run on to the green green grass of home.