It’s now almost a month since England were kicked out of their own World Cup by Wales and Australia. That’s four weeks since England were humiliated in their own backyard in a tournament they might have won. Yet somehow, incredibly, we still don’t know whether Stuart Lancaster will keep his job. It’s absurd.
Why oh why has it taken so long to make a decision? It’s not rocket science. Lancaster had four long years to get things right. His team gradually got worse not better. The same problems – a lack of identity, inconsistency of selection and tactical naivety – dogged the side like psoriasis. And when the pressure was on, Lancaster lost his nerve and made boneheaded selections and formulaic substitutions that showed a worrying inability to read the game.
The RFU review panel can only come to one sensible decision. And it should have taken them five seconds not days or weeks. Lancaster must go. Any idiot knows that.
Yet I sense, deep in my bones, that every attempt is being made to preserve his position. Look at the composition of the review panel: Ian Ritchie (the man who inexplicably gave Lancaster a large contract extension not long ago) Ian Watmore, Sir Ian McGeechan (one of those who recommended Lancaster in the first place), Ian Metcalfe and Ben Kay (the former player and pundit close to one of Lancaster’s most audible cheerleaders, Lewis Moody). It’s hardly the most impartial panel in the world.
The initial feeling within the group will be one of embarrassment. They’ll be tempted to give their man another crack of the whip in the vain hope he’ll turn things around – anything to make their decision to appoint him in the first place look a little less farcical.
Many England supporters don’t understand why the RFU need a review panel anyway. Can’t someone just make a decision? All this procrastination, presented as ‘procedure’, is nonsense. Yes a review into the structure of the game should take place, but surely this could be a separate issue to Lancaster’s future? What English rugby needs is less dithering and more direction. At the moment we’re in a state of limbo. Lancaster needs to be put out of his misery.
If you look back into the past, it was similar dithering that earned Lancaster the job in the first place. The RFU rightly decided to part ways with Martin Johnson in 2011, but took so long to find a successor that a caretaker needed to be installed for the Six Nations – even thought they had almost four months to fill the void. I can’t recall the FA, or even the ECB, ever taking so long to find a new head coach. Why do the wheels turn so slowly at the RFU?
So now we return to the question raised in the headline of this article. How many review panellists does it take to change a light bulb? I’m not sure to be honest, but I know how many it should take: one. Knowing the RFU however, it would probably take five. And it would take them at least a month.