Friday, July 05, 2013

Gatland’s player management

BOD could do no more in tests 1 & 2 but it clearly wasn’t enough for Warren, writes James Griffin.

Rugby Opinion

The coach of a professional rugby team who aspires to team and personal success can learn quite a bit from best practice in business management. People management and enabling people to give of their best are essential if a business is to succeed; that equates to good player management and enabling players to perform to optimum levels in a sports environment. In short, good people management and a good strategy are required for success in sport as much as in business.

It may sound easy or intuitive but player management is challenging and even more so in a Lions tour context where former adversaries are expected to put sometimes entrenched national and / or club rivalries to one side and gel as a team pursuing a common goal. If the coach gets it right, the chances of success are greatly improved; if the coach gets it wrong, failure is almost guaranteed.

For the sports coach, getting the right people with the right skills and experience in the right place at the right time and all implementing an appropriate game strategy are key parts of running a successful team.

So where does our Mr. Gatland stand? Has he chosen the right people with the right skills and experience in the right positions at the right time doing the right things in the right way.

Lets consider the position of outside centre. The player selected for the third test does have the appropriate skills to correctly perform the duties of the position but is he the right player or best player available in that position? I don't think so. Does he have the right experience? Yes, but again I think there is a better and more experienced player available for selection in that position. Is it the right time to make such a change? Given that this next game is a series decider, absolutely no in my view. Is the player selected capable of doing the right things in the right way? Yes he is, but to date on tour he has not done so consistently. Some of that inconsistency is attributable to him being selected out of position by the coach. Has the more experienced player done the right things in the right way? Notwithstanding poor quality ball from a pack struggling to secure its own line out and scrum ball and an inside centre not accustomed to that position, the player performance statistics from both tests to date clearly show that the more experienced player has consistently done the right things in the right way.

In short, my view is that Brian O'Driscoll has done all that was required of him in defence in the first two tests and indeed more but had little opportunity to attack in those games and has taken the rap for a flawed team selection and game strategy - a systems failure attributable to the coach who is ultimately responsible. As for the change at no. 8, I find that equally baffling.

Leaving all the management speak aside, I suspect that Roberts and Davies were Gatland's preferred centre partnership all along and that if Roberts had been fit for the last two tests, he would have been selected by Gatland. On that basis, Gatland can rationalise his decision - going with his first preference and Brian O'Driscoll has had two more Lions tests than he ever intended to give him.

Will the Lions win? I hope so. But the manner in which this has been handled leaves a sour taste - Brian O'Driscoll is at least worth a bench place especially when looking at the player performance statistics from last week and that extra magic that only he seems to be able to conjure up. I would have picked him to start.

For me the Lions concept and Lions jersey has been devalued on this tour.

James Griffin is originally from Tipperary, lives in Dublin where he is married to a Dubliner and Leinster supporter. He supports Ireland, then Munster and after that, other Irish teams when his own is not involved.


Brian said...

For me, Gatland has failed the Lions tradition in one important way. Yes, ultimately the tour is about winning. At the end of the day, all sport is about winning. But the Lions on the pitch represent a *team* from all 4 nations - a subtle but important point this - they're not just a group of the best players, but a team. Good and Great players don't necessarily make a team. That's where we look to the coach.

So what team has Gatland created? Yes, I know there have been injuries. But what is Gatland's ultimate Lions team?

In my opinion, this is why Gatland has failed. Here we are on the eve of the final match and what do we find? Gatland has reverted to a team that he knows - Wales - and is serving this up instead of a team created over the past weeks - which is the sole reason for a Lions tour in the first place. Make no mistake - Gatland might be right in saying that this is a rugby decision based on what he sees as the best chance to win the tour. But he has failed as a Lions coach, and win or lose the final test, this is not a successful tour.

So I think a lot of people are perhaps mixing up certain things. Yes, the tour is about winning at the end of the day, but the journey is equally important, and it looks to me like this journey has been a waste of everyone's time.

Gatland set up a defensive team for the last test - actually both sides did. It was a game where the mentality wasn't to go out and win the game, but to not lose the game. The fear of losing (from both sides) was palatable.

Australia can't really change anything for the final test. How can they? It was a winning formula, right? Can you imagine what the reaction would be if they made wholesale changes - and then lost?

Oddly enough, because the Lions lost, Gatland was afforded the luxury of changing the team around. In his mind, I've no doubt he is picking a team he believes can win. It's called Wales. Individually, he has forgiven poor play by Wales players - because he has faith in them as a team. But hey - that team is called Wales. That isn't the Lions. He hasn't blended and crafted a team from all 4 nations which has a unique character all it's own. In fear, reverting to what he believes he knows, he has selected Wales.

That, in a nutshell, is why he has failed.

Gary Williams said...

Win or lose the final game, this is not a successful tour! What a load of nonsense.. a win in the final test and everybody (OK perhaps not the Scots and Irish) will think it was a very successful tour

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