Rugby thoughts – Ekatahuna and Stuart Lancaster

This week a mix of thoughts and what’s turned into a bad 90s comedy road movie of a  trip, to see a preseason game.

Ekatahuna or bust

What was going to be a simple trip has turned into a madcap journey that I used to do in my younger years before kids. I once travelled to San Francisco or more precisely Yosemite national park, five hours drive away, for the weekend to attend a wedding. It sounds normal until I say I flew from London.

This is not as big but equally crazy. Tui have been working with the Hurricanes for the past four years in organising a preseason Super Rugby game in the provinces. So take a town of 440 people and host a rugby game with a crowd of 4 thousand. It’s the kind of silly event that I like and this year I happen to be in NZ. So I have managed to wrangle a pass for the weekend from Mrs ExpatDadSG and off I go.

This year it’s Hurricanes v Crusaders and I assumed that there would be supporters coaches heading up to Eketahuna from Wellington. I was wrong and so here is my madcap journey:

Auckland to Wellington - Sleeper coach arriving Friday 7am
Saturday morning
Wellington to Masterton - 1.5 hours train
1 hour to find and check into hotel
Masterton to Eketahuna - 40 minute bus trip
Eketahuna to Masterton - 40 minute bus trip and stay night
Masteron to Wellington - 8am 1.5 hours train
Wellington to Auckland - Overnight coach arriving Monday 7am

OK I could have shaved off a day by getting the sleeper coach a day later but then I wouldn’t catch up with mates in Wellington. The real killer is the return over night that is not a sleeper so over 9 hrs in a chair trying to sleep, easy when I was 20 not so much so at twice the age.

So that’s my madcap journey, I’ll let you know how it goes and more importantly about the event its self. There are prizes for fancy dress and so I hope to get some good photos, we have not decided if we are going to get dressed up.

Finally drop me a note if you’re going and maybe we can catchup for a beer.

Stuart Lancaster

When Stuart Lancaster took over the England job the team was in a mess. He took decisive action and totally turned the culture of the team around. He dropped players who were seen as being a bad influence on the squad. Took the squad up to a Yorkshire rugby club for a training camp instead of some plush hotel overseas. Danny Care was dropped for several matches for a drinking incident. Everybody knew who was the boss.

As recently as the 6 Nations last year things seemed to be generally in order. As there hadn’t been consistency in the back line Lancaster stated early on that he was picking the same side for the whole tournament. It worked, the performances and results improved over the games. There were comments about Farrel senior and junior but on the whole the train was one the right tracks.

Since then the wheels have come off, the farce over availability of players for the NZ tour didn’t help but then changing the team each game didn’t help either. Again for the November Internationals selection seemed all over the place. Now as we get closer to the world cup Lancaster appears to have lost his bottle and is no longer being decisive and putting the team culture and unity first.

Hartley was supposed to be on his last chance but gets red carded and is selected again, has he been given another last chance warning? Do any of us believe it even if he has?

Nick Easter who was famous for the “flushing money down the toilet” comment at the last world cup, goes from not being anywhere near the squad to in it. What are those players who have been on the fringe, turning up to training camps and playing for the Saxons supposed to think?

Have the performances of Cipriani and Myler changed that much since November for them to be switched in the pecking order? Or has the talk of Cipriani turning his back on England and moving to France forced Lancaster’s hand?

The fast tracking of Sam Burgess smacks of desperation. He is a very talented athlete, the problem is he doesn’t know the game. To expect him to be up to international speed in less than a year is irresponsible. For example Sonny-Bill Williams had two years at Toulon before heading to NZ and two more years playing there before going to the world cup in New Zealand. So what kind of message is this sending to the other players?

Add all this up and in summary I think that Lancaster is being less decisive as the clock ticks down to the world cup and that is the opposite of what is needed.

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