Goodbye Sir, And Good Riddance
is a word you often associate with great people, great
achievers, great sportsmen even. Dignity is not something that
springs to mind when reviewing the fortnight Sir Clive
Woodward just spent in our fair part of the world.
22/06/2004 12:06 PM
Dignity is a word you often associate
with great people, great achievers, great sportsmen even. Dignity is
not something that springs to mind when reviewing the fortnight Sir
Clive Woodward just spent in our fair part of the world.
It wasn't long ago that the Queen uttered those immortal words,
"Arise, Sir Clive". Well I utter a few more now:
"Goodbye, Sir Clive, and Good Riddance."
Let's get one thing straight before I go on. And I will go on. This is
not Pom bashing, or some Anglophobe tirade. I would do the same if it
had been a New Zealander behaving like a spoiled brat who hadn't got
his own way and was having a good old cry about it. I'd say the same
thing to the Kiwi as I say to England's rugby coach now: Grow up.
History has eventually proven Woodward to be a pretty good rugby
coach, or at least a hell of a good tactician, organiser, plotter,
motivator, spender of money and leader. He has, after all, taken
England to the top of the rugby world and there is absolutely no doubt
it was a deserved ascendancy to the throne in Australia last year.
But that was then and this is now. And here we had the coach of the
world champions in our country for a couple of tests against the All
Blacks. After what I've just witnessed the last two weeks,
particularly in Auckland, the Queen might well want to ask for that
Woodward has always had a touch of arrogance about him. In many ways
it goes with the territory. To succeed as a coach at this level you've
got to have belief, convictions, confidence, all those things that in
abundance can border on arrogance. And while he remained in pursuit of
that Webb Ellis Cup there was an us-against-the world approach he
almost thrived on.
But he won it. And I truly thought that would go a long way to
removing the angst and whatever else it is that drives this peculiar
man. Sadly, it appears not.
After Carisbrook's 36-3 hiding from the All Blacks, Woodward was flat
out embarrassed. Lost in the long list of laments about his own team's
shortcomings had been the fact that he was unwilling to lay too much
of the credit at the feet of his opponents. Fair enough.
In fact it says a lot about the English (and their traveling troupe of
press) that they spent much of the week between the two test matches
convincing themselves that All Black lock Keith Robinson - their chief
tormentor in Dunedin - was barely fit to lace up a pair of boots at
this level. It was almost an attitude of "How dare this
antipodean ruffian be so obtuse as to get physical with us!"
Moving on. Clearly Robinson, and his mates in the black pack, had got
so under the skin of the English that they came out at Eden Park
intent on dishing out a bit of biffo themselves. Big mistake. All they
did was commit a rugby form of hara-kiri, Simon Shaw given his
marching orders after 11 minutes for what may have been a piece of
thuggery or just a gentle reminder, depending on your viewpoint.
Covered Himself In Shame
There are any number of opinions on the Shaw dismissal which
effectively decided the contest thereafter. But there are only two
facts: his braindead kneeing of the prone Robinson put him in a
position to be judged; and the decision, by touch judge Stuart
Dickinson, was to remove him from the match.
So we come to Woodward's response. And it is here that the England
coach has covered himself in shame.
Before coming to the press conference, through watching replay after
replay after replay in the Sky production wagon, he had apparently
convinced himself an injustice had been done. He then unleashed a
tirade of finger-pointing accusations and not so subtle innuendo that
defied belief. Never before had any of us seen such a bad loser losing
his rag so comprehensively.
OK, Woodward had perceived the decision to be a poor one, but it so
jaundiced his view on everything he began rambling like a madman.
He clearly wasn't happy with Dickinson's competency, he was sure the
official had been influenced both by the crowd and the TV replay
screen ("We don't have them at Twickenham," was just one of
his more pompous responses) and for some reason he began dredging up
an incident involving Ali Williams in Wellington last year, as though
it had any relevance.
"Simon Shaw is not a dirty player," he told us ad infinitum.
Perhaps he didn't see the off the ball blow to the head of Kiwi hooker
Keven Mealamu in the first test then. He was in such a fit of pique
none of us dared mention his hypocrisy.
And sure Williams may have committed an indiscretion in Wellington
last year, but what sort of buffoon uses that as ammunition now? Geez,
Danny Grewcock has been booting defenceless Kiwis in the head for a
living and it doesn't raise a peep from the All Blacks camp.
There was more, much more, from Woodward. He remained convinced his
England side was "a better team" than the All Blacks,
despite losing the two tests by a combined score of 72-15, eight tries
to nil. What is more, he reckons the New Zealanders have some real
weaknesses on defence. The same defence his side couldn't score a try
against in two tests.
It was all very sad. Enough to make you want to go out and buy your
tickets for the Lions tests right now.