Tag Archive: Jim Mallinder

By Laurie Fitzgerald

The new Aviva Premiership season got underway last weekend, as rugby fans across the country prepare for another epic and thrilling campaign ahead.

In terms of an introduction to the new season, there could hardly have been a better one; it may have been the first game of the season, but Harlequins and Wasps produced 80 minutes of entertainment that may not be bettered in the following 134 matches.

After enduring the season from hell last time out, Wasps looked to have shaken off the shackles that saw them almost go out of the Premiership and close to administration as their pace and precision tore apart the defending champions.     Continue reading


By Laurie Fitzgerald

Northampton Saints kept up their relentless march to the Aviva Premiership play-offs after a bonus point win over London Irish on Sunday.

That win at the Madjeski made it five victories from their least six league matches as Jim Mallinder‘s men moved up to within four points of Saracens in second.

With a home semi-final starting to become a real possibility, Northampton’s chances of Premiership glory are strengthening by the week.

What makes their recent form all the more impressive is that in previous seasons, this has been the stage of the campaign where the depth of the squad has come into question.   Continue reading

By Laurie Fitzgerald

After a shambolic few months on and off the pitch for England, a beleagured Rugby Football Union have managed to pull themselves together enough to name a coaching line-up for next year’s Six Nations.

With the Championship set to begin in February and the organisation no nearer to finding a long-term solution, the responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of trio Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree.

Lancaster will step into the hotseat as the interim head coach, while Saracens’ first-team coach Farrell will assist him alongside forwards coach Rowntree.

It has been made clear that these appointments are very much up until the conclusion of the tournament in March, and by then the RFU will hopefully have identified their main candidate to replace Martin Johnson.

The two main contenders of Nick Mallett and Northampton Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder are unavailable at this current time, and come the summer that could well change.

So until then it is up to Lancaster and his team to focus on the here and now and start planning for what is the beginning of the latest four-year cycle until the next Rugby World Cup, due to be held in England in 2015.

It is a no-lose situation for Lancaster; failure in the Championship and he will leave his temporary position and move onto pastures new as expected.

While a successful campaign will only strengthen his own chances of being the dark horse for the England job and put his name firmly in the frame.

With a situation like this, it gives the unlikely trio a genuine opportunity of mixing up the established order and begin to blood some of the excellent young talent coming through the ranks in this country, as well as those that deserve to test themselves at international level.

42 year-old Lancaster has experience with many of the players whether it be young or old, having had a spell in charge of a successful Saxons side as well as doing considerable work within the academy.

This familiarity will allow Lancaster to identify what players deserve a shout in what is going to herald a new era after the previous one ended in such travesty.

Young players such as Joe Marler, Charlie Sharples, Jordan Turner-Hall, Christian Wade and Farrell’s son Owen have continued to impress and stake a claim for England recognition despite their tender age.

These are the kind of lads – hungry, talented and determined to play for their country – that the long-term should be built around, as well as those that are ready to figure prominently over the next few years.

Players like Chris Robshaw, Brad Barritt, Phil Dowson and Dave Attwood have all earnt the right to prove their worth in the Six Nations.

That’s not to say that there should be a complete change to the current playing structure, with many players like Courtney Lawes, Tom Croft, Tom Wood, Ben Youngs, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden are going to be around for years to come.

But in modern-day sport, when there is so much pressure to deliver results and therefore cannot afford to take risks in case it jeopardises their position, Lancaster and co. have been presented a rare situation.

This way, whoever does take charge on a permanent basis – whether it be Mallett, Mallinder or Lancaster himself – they will have a better account of just what the future holds for English rugby.

So what do you think? Should Lancaster and his interim coaching team turn to youth and those ready for a chance in the Six Nations? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

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By Laurie Fitzgerald

The growing storm that has engulfed the England rugby team since their disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign has intensified after last Wednesday’s events.

Martin Johnson decided to fall on his sword before the RFU made a decision as to who would push him onto it by resigning as Team Manager.

It was a sad way to end a four-year reign that going into the tournament in New Zealand was starting to show real promise after winning the Six Nations earlier in the year as well as home and away wins over Australia in the last 18 months.

However, the 2003 World Cup-winning captain has taken the responsibility for a competition that was woeful in its discipline off the pitch as much as its performances on it.

Although he has made mistakes in his time in charge, it’s important to point out that Johnson was not given the help he should have been, especially considering this was his first managerial job in the biggest role of all.

There was no experienced man put alongside him to assist in his decision-making, and it has meant that when things have gone wrong he has taken the flack all on his own, which simply isn’t right.

The latest fiasco within English rugby headquarters is who exactly is going to start taking responsibility in an organisation that has fallen apart at the seams.

All that the RFU are given the impression of is a regime that doesn’t know who is in charge of who, and the person that is in charge of finding Johnson’s replacement is supposedly Rob Andrew.

I say supposedly because when Andrew was pushed on whether he should resign from his role as rugby operations director (whatever that means), the former England fly-half stated that the decision of who was in charge of the national side was only a fifth of his responsibilities.

Yet as Sir Clive Woodward pointed out over the weekend, how can a man that takes no responsibility of the running of the national side go about finding a replacement? Will he rebuke his role in the appointment if it goes wrong again?

It’s no wonder so many of the leading contenders for the vacant position left by Johnson have been quick to rule themselves out of the running amongst various other reasons.

With the likes of Nick Mallett, Jake White and Conor O’Shea no longer in contention, the two main contenders seem to be New Zealand’s World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry, and Northampton’s Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder.

Personally, going for Mallinder will be the most logical choice. It is unlikely that Henry would want to take on such a position when he has achieved what he has wanted from International rugby.

Mallinder ticks most of the boxes to fit the role; he has experience within the RFU when he was in charge of both the England Saxons and the Under-21 side, achieving success with both sides.

He has also shown that he can develop a squad in the long-term, firstly with Sale and now with Northampton, the 45 year-old is a canny operator in getting the structure right from top to bottom and identifying the players he can develop into top-class internationals.

Players such as Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood will all testify Mallinder’s qualities in getting the best out of their potential and being permanent fixtures in the England squad.

Considering there is an excellent crop of youngsters coming through the RFU academy, having shown this with the U-20 national side getting to the final of World U-20 Championship in the summer and winning the Six Nations Grand Slam at the beginning of 2011.

Now future stars such as Owen Farrell, Christian Wade and Tom Ford can get the development their talents deserve if Mallinder is given the opportunity.

All that remains is for the RFU to make the right decision and look to develop in the long-term with a man that has shown he can do that.

But as we all know, the RFU and right decisions rarely go hand in hand these days.

So what do you think? Should Mallinder get the England job? If not, who would be your choice to replace Martin Johnson? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

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