26 Jun

Has Clive Got The Balls..
by Paul Waite
26 Jun 2005

To admit he got it badly wrong?

I’m not talking about an embarassing public down-trou, but a simple look-in-the-mirror reality check which will result in better things to come for The Lions. In the meantime he and Alistair Campbell-Soup can spin whatever web of deception they like for the mainstream media circus.

If he does have the guts and integrity to talk to the whole Lions Squad and admit he’s screwed up, despite a budget equivalent to the entire GDP of some Third World countries and a “no stone unturned” Master Plan three years in the making, then there is hope.

He needs to admit to everyone in that squad that he got it wrong in selection, and wrong in gameplan and tactics, and that he wants their help in putting it right. What’s required is a pledge from him to select honestly, and select on form, and to back that up with action in the coming critical week.

If he can do that then there’s a chance that it might act as the de-fibrillator which brings the Lions’ heart back to life, because the embarassingly feeble effort we saw last night on Jade Stadium was a disgrace and an insult to all Lions teams of the past, and was, I believe, a testament to a squad which has been divided and de-motivated by Clive’s approach up to now. There was no fight, no do-or-die for the cause attitude, and aside from the loss of Brian O’Driscoll and the final scoreline, that was the saddest aspect of the test match for Lions fans.

There’s a concept in this game of rugby (and many others) which is so starkly obvious, so simple in essence, that coaches and managers sometimes forget it, or ignore it: the game is won or lost by the players on the pitch.

Woodward was bathed in the golden light of success when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, however he didn’t win it – Martin Johnson’s men won it, as a team. That England team had it’s day in the Sun and has now passed into history. It won the World Cup because it contained XV men who would die for one another, and in particular their leader Johnson, a mighty rugby player of equal standing to the great Colin Meads himself.

This Lions team may have a huge budget, and Clive may have ticked all of the little square boxes on his Lions Tour 2005 QA forms, but he’s failed to notice that he hasn’t got a team. The thing that took the field at Jade Stadium was just a collection of professional rugby players, none of whom really looked like they wanted to be there, and it wasn’t just because of the weather.

Admittedly, bringing the Four Nations together and welding them up into a cohesive whole is never easy, but there are certain things guaranteed to result in a debacle, and one of them is blatantly playing your favourites when selecting the test team. Whether intentional or not (and I know which side my money lies) this is what is perceived, and the de-motivating effects were on show last night.

So, Clive, have you got the balls to admit you were wrong? Have you got the self-awareness to even realize that this is so? Then, have you got the guts and integrity to front up to the Lions Squad and own the mistake, and thus bring them together to make it right.

It isn’t too late. The required change can be wrought very quickly if an honest approach is made to them. These are very fit individuals who live and breathe rugby, and with a fire in their bellies, they will bring it all together in the next seven days, given the lead to do so.

One thing is for sure, if Clive just tinkers and titivates with “technical issues” between now and then, there’s another beating in store. And if the weather is dry in Wellington, then the Lions won’t get off as lightly as they did at Jade.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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