Car­ling can teach these mod­ern play­ers so much

The Rugby Paper - - Views - BREN­DAN GALLAGHER

THE ap­point­ment of Will Car­ling as a lead­er­ship men­tor/guru to Owen Far­rell, Dy­lan Hart­ley and Eng­land’s se­nior play­ers raised a few eye­brows and in­deed sparked off a deal of crit­i­cism. He was, ac­cord­ing to some, over­rated as a skip­per and sto­ries of his lead­er­ship virtues are a myth

The main crit­i­cism al­ways thrown at Car­ling is that Eng­land were so strong dur­ing his time that al­most any­body could have cap­tained them to Five Na­tions ti­tles and Grand Slams.

Re­ally? Many of the play­ers in­volved dur­ing Car­ling’s first two Grand Slam teams in 1991 and 1992 were also around in the mid 80s and at the 1987 World Cup when Eng­land, to use the tech­ni­cal term, were a com­plete shower. There were nine Eng­land cap­tains be­tween Bill Beau­mont re­tir­ing in 1982 and Car­ling tak­ing over in 1988 and none of them cov­ered them­selves in glory

Eng­land were a dif­fi­cult team to cap­tain. There was a drink­ing cul­ture and the squad was of­ten di­vided along par­ti­san club lines.

You had a clutch of po­lice­men used to be­ing in charge, tal­ented but in­de­pen­dent minded or­thopaedic sur­geons; vol­u­ble lawyers who some­times seemed to en­joy ar­gu­ments as much the ac­tual rugby; city slick­ers; south Lon­don hard cases who liked to get things ‘sorted’; RAF top guns; Varsity chaps – some bol­shie, some ‘es­tab­lish­ment’ who liked to think they al­ways knew best – and West coun­try leg­ends who were rev­ered Kings of the Cas­tle down their way.

Some thought they should ei­ther have been the cap­tain in the past or could cer­tainly do a job bet­ter than the young whip­per­snap­per with the skip­per’s arm­band.

But that’s the whole point. Car­ling was none of the above and be­longed to none of the cliques who, up to his ar­rival on the scene, had been mak­ing a dog’s din­ner of things for Eng­land. He wasn’t con­tam­i­nated by fail­ure like they were. Although he ad­mired them all hugely as play­ers, he owed no al­le­giance to them, that was given to­tally to his coach and king­maker Ge­off Cooke.

Car­ling, study­ing psy­chol­ogy at Durham Uni­ver­sity while also be­ing trained as an Army of­fi­cer, was both naive and clever. There was no rugby fig­ure in the world who could have marched into that Eng­land dress­ing room and cracked the whip, cer­tainly not at the age of 22.

So he boxed clever and tended to­wards self dep­re­ca­tion. At all times he paid due def­er­ence to the old lags, rather in the way that most Tour de France win­ners heap gush­ing praise on their faith­ful col­leagues. It was all down to them. Any­body could cap­tain Eng­land

Well, if it was that easy, why had Eng­land won only one Grand Slam since 1957 when Car­ling took over?

Car­ling let the big boys think they were still in charge some of the time and, yes, that oc­ca­sion­ally back­fired, as when he let Brian Moore talk him out of a sim­ple three points at Mur­ray­field in 1990 when Mooro was con­vinced the Eng­land pack had Scot­land on toast at a scrum five. They didn’t.

Me­di­a­tor, fa­cil­ia­tor, peace­maker...the Eng­land cap­tain was also front of house. Very few fan­cied do­ing that. He adorned mag­a­zine front pages and – later in his ca­reer – took lor­ry­loads of me­dia flak re­gard­ing his per­sonal life.

He hap­pily took on the old farts and fought for his team to be prop­erly treated – much harder for the cap­tain than a trooper – and let’s not for­get he was also a very fine in­ter­na­tional cen­tre for most of his ca­reer. If ever you get a chance watch again the sec­ond half of that 1995 World Cup semi-fi­nal when Eng­land were fac­ing com­plete obliv­ion and dis­grace. It was Car­ling who led the fight back to semi-re­spectabil­ity.

He wasn’t per­fect but three Grand Slams – and it could have been four – a los­ing World Cup Fi­nal and a 75 per cent suc­cess rate dur­ing his 59 Tests in charge. That is some pal­mares.

A tabloid ‘pin up’’ and then ‘bad boy’, a tren­chant op­poser of old far­tism. An in­di­vid­ual who knew great suc­cess and some se­ri­ous per­sonal lows. An in­di­vid­ual who since his re­tire­ment 20 years ago has sim­ply got on liv­ing his life and not re­play­ing old glo­ries – no gloat­ing about ‘his Eng­land’ and scarcely a trin­ket or mo­mento on dis­play at his home.

Oh yes, I would say there is plenty Car­ling could im­part to the mod­ern gen­er­a­tion if they are will­ing to lis­ten.

Adu­la­tion: Will Car­ling leads Eng­land to the Grand Slam

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.