The Rugby World Cup was a great spectacle, for the most part, and of course the result was what we Kiwis were holding out for (although I, for one would have preferred an easier match to watch as a final!) There was some great rugby played, (as there were also some pretty indifferent performances), there were some wonderful images of enjoyment with fans getting together and just having fun, visitors related some great stories of generosity by ordinary Kiwi people they met on their travels, and our Prime Minister thought it was one of the best opportunities he’s ever had to get his face plastered over our local newspapers!
Most players would have reckoned this to be the pinnacle of their careers as they arrived and many would likely have carried that feeling away as well even though a decent number who left following some of those indifferent performances will be already priming themselves for the new pinnacle of their careers when they play better in the 2015 World Cup!
Sadly one of the abiding memories for me will be the disgraceful antics of some players, players who I would have thought should have known better. All teams who came were a mix of experienced ‘old hands’ and bright and exciting emerging players. Call me old-fashioned but I believe that it is the responsibility of management and the ‘old guard’ to nurture and lead the younger players on and off the field, and thereby help them to live up to the ‘role model’ tag that they inherit when they reach the top echelon of national and international sport. Whether or not this is entirely fair given they are simply following a career in the game that they love and are good at is moot, but I guess the ‘career’ bit gives weight to the expectation that they model a role. It is an unfortunate fact, however, that too often we see management and ‘old guard’ coming up short in this regard.
One would expect (reasonably, I think) ALL players who were selected to represent their countries in this (or any similar ‘World’) event would, as hinted at before, reckon this to be the pinnacle of their careers. To win a World Cup has to be the ultimate achievement of any sportsman (if, indeed you are in a World event and not a ‘World’ event such as the US baseball ‘World Series’!!) To be part of a team given the chance to compete at the World Rugby Cup would, I would expect, make one make special efforts to do the best one could. Many teams did impose restrictions on their players and most players seemed to have little difficulty staying within ‘the rules’.
It would seem the England team had little real leadership. The management clearly fell short of making it clear what was acceptable and what wasn’t while the team was in New Zealand playing for The Cup. If I am wrong in this, then clearly the team leadership (captain) and may of the players had little or no respect for any ‘rules’ outlined by management. From this it would also seem that England had no expectation of dragging themselves out of the hole that their game has fallen into to try and commit to a winning game, and thus just viewed this trip as another ‘away trip’ for the boys, and an opportunity to have fun. For the Captain of the team to lead the way with bar-room shenanigans with a young lady who wasn’t his (new) wife, and then to lie about it to his own management, and for other England team members to enjoy late night partying, and others to act inappropriately with hotel staff, speaks volumes as to the suitability of the Captain for the job, and commitment by the team to the task.
It has to be said that the English team were not the only transgressors- for example two young All Blacks were widely publicised as having broken curfew and had a late-night drunken outing. That they were young members of the NZ squad was no excuse, and they seem to have learned from the incident (even though the note at the end of this post might tell a different story!!)
What I find interesting about the Tindall story is that as his actions have been judged to have been serious enough (presumably both his actions as a captain and the manner of his antics) for him to be fined and dumped from the England ‘Elite Squad’ by the UK rugby authorities, it was largely ignored or ‘papered over’ at the time. To my mind that approaches the reprehensible and puts the authorities in as bad a light as the player they are supposedly sanctioning. Little wonder English rugby administrators are held in as lowly regard as their game.
A footnote to this story may be read here. Young All Black Zac Guildford has disgraced himself while holidaying in the islands by assaulting bar patrons while naked and drunk. That’s bad enough but it follows on from other documented incidents and after he had, we are led to believe, attended counselling and corrective ‘courses’ required by NZ Rugby administration. This young man is one of the new All Blacks and he has, rightly or wrongly inherited the responsibilities of that position. That he’s not currently ‘on duty’ is beside the point, as is the fact that he has personal matters to deal with, but he will obviously be on some sort of behaviour contract given historical issues of a similar nature and such behaviour should have been so far from his mind that if there was any hint that he couldn’t handle alcohol (as may already have been proven) he would have considered his future against the ‘fun present’. If he can’t get his head around this he needs to start looking for a new job.