I wrote a piece about the RFU - see below - and my editor asked the RFU for a photo to accompany it but they said they didn't like the article and wouldn't help us. Dear me.
Article for Kensington & Chelsea Today
English Rugby: Back and in Better Spirit
by Derek Wyatt
Fifteen months ago, the English rugby union known more quaintly as the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was in freefall. At the 2011 rugby world cup in New Zealand, some of its senior players misbehaved on and off the field. Instead of sending the players home immediately, the (mis)management team flustered and blustered. As it turned out, the RFU was living up to its initials of being Really F**** Useless. There were, to misquote Chris Patten, more senior managers incapable of taking responsibility than there was in the senior echelons of the Chinese Communist Party.
Eventually the blood spilled out. Bill Beaumont failed to win the nomination as Chairman of the International Rugby Board and limped home. Martin Thomas, acting CEO of the RFU, and Martin Johnson, the England coach, stepped down. Others should have fallen on their knives and extraordinarily survived. The organisational chart at Twickenham resembled a drunken stag party stretched over four days in Vegas.
Fifteen months on and peace has broken out. Stuart Lancaster, an unknown coach, who had no senior rugby experience at either international or club level (though he had been in charge of the second string England XV known as the Saxons) was appointed, to some astonishment, to take control of England - lock, stock and barrel.
In last year's Six Nations, he went about rebuilding confidence and re-focusing the side. They opened with a rather plodding game away to Scotland winning 13-6 and repeated that performance in Rome beating Italy winning 19-15. At home the side that was unrecognisable from the XV in New Zealand was given a heroes welcome for their first home game against Wales. I was there and thought a draw would have better reflected the match but the Welsh scored an opportunistic try and the end and took the game 19-12 and went on to win the Grand Slam (where one side wins all its matches). Meanwhile, Lancaster's job wasn't quite finished and to everyone's surprise they then beat France away 24-22 and thrashed a poor Irish side 30-9.
Fast forward to this year's Six Nations and the England team is fitter mentally and physically and it is better organised on and off the field. It is disciplined and the shattered spirit of late 2011 has long gone. Above all else the squad is committed to one another.
As the competition requires each side to play five games each year, the coveted "Grand Slam" usually happens when one of the six countries plays three fixtures at home and, um, two away. Last year, it favoured Wales, Ireland and France. This year it favours England, Scotland and Italy. After three rounds England remains the only undefeated side whilst France has yet to win a match something they have not experienced for over fifty years.
So, England have two games to go to clinch their first slam since 2003 when they went onto win the rugby world championship in Sydney. Next up is Italy at home in two weeks time which will be closer as the Italians are no longer the fifty point push-over they were but it is hard to imagine their first victory at Twickenham. This leaves a last game against Wales in Cardiff on 16th March at 5pm where England will hope to do what Wales did to them in 2012. It'll be close; it always is but this young England side is no longer a push over. Its players rarely make the tabloids where once they dominated them.
It’s surprising what can be achieved in 15 months when the team is united on and off the field. So forgive me as someone who once played for England, I think they are good enough to achieve that rarity: a grand slam. Come on England!