When Wales failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup because of a missed penalty against Romania, the manager, Terry Yorath, was sacked. Presumably, Ed Smith would think this fair, Yorath having failed to "shift his focus", even though the "culture" of Welsh football had been improved (Left Field,16th October, 20015)? Often in sport, the bounce of the ball, the oversight of an official, or the superhuman efforts of the opponents can lead to unexpected, and sometimes undeserved, defeat, with inevitably, the manager getting the blame. Coaches don`t miss the penalty shots, drop the passes or take the wrong decision with the goal/line in sight, but the players who do, invariably escape being banished into the international wilderness.
Smith thinks that if Stuart Lancaster had "demonstrated the qualities of a truly talented teacher" England would still be in the competition, with a chance of reaching the semi-finals, and no talk of replacing him. But is it not true that England`s early exit was not because of bad management, but bad luck? Being in the group with two of the best teams in the world was the result of organisers making the draw ludicrously early; having England`s most talented back injured prior to the crucial game was hardly his fault, whilst the ball`s refusal to behave stupidly as it does 95% of the time, and instead bounce into Gareth Davies`s hands, is ultimately the reason Lancaster is being pilloried now.
If, indeed, Lancaster did "irritate people", this was not apparent when his team thrashed Wales, France and Scotland, all quarter-finalists, in the Six Nations earlier this year. Fans being fickle is common, but it`s disappointing when the same tendency is shown by respected sports writers. Smith should be concentrating on more worrying and valid reasons for failure, as Tim Wigmore did, when he pointed out that rugby in England is becoming the "preserve of the privately educated" (Observations,9th October, 2015). 7% of the nation`s pupils attend fee-paying schools, but 64.5% of England`s squad did.