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The Unsinkable Rob Andrew

If Rob Andrew had been a crewman on the Titanic I feel confident that he would have been among the few who secured a seat in a lifeboat.  He is that kind of fellow.  

I don’t mean a cad in the manner of Lord Ismay, who sneaked a place to save his own skin, but a born survivor.  One can picture Rob helping bravely to launch the last tender and then, apparently resigned to a watery death, responding to the cries of the ladies imploring him to step aboard their tender to man the tiller.  Having thus survived, I imagine he would have gone on to become a senior figure in the management of the White Star Line.

The doomed ship analogy is apt: Andrew works, as director of elite rugby, for the hapless, scandal-ridden, beyond-a-joke organization that is the Rugby Football Union.  Disunion more like it.   

England’s former stand-off may be the most unpopular man in English rugby right now.  That is no mean achievement, given that an ever-expanding list of rivals for the title include his boss, acting chief executive Martyn Thomas, the recently resigned team manager Martin Johnson, several England players, including the captain and vice captain – not to mention most of the team coaches and support staff.

Andrew, I have to own up, was never on my list of admired players.  His most notable talent, I seem to recall, was an ability to stifle any attacking move by kicking the ball into the stands.   

“Does anyone in England actually know how to pass a rugby ball?” I was once asked by an Australian friend after Andrew, apparently oblivious to the presence of his fourteen colleagues on the field, had for the umpteenth time hoisted the ball through the windows of one of Twickenham’s hospitality suites.     

Long since elevated to the executive suite, Andrew has finally learned how to pass.  But instead of a ball he passes the buck.

Was he the man who was in overall charge during the debacle of England’s performances on and off the field at the recent World Cup in New Zealand?  Yes he was.  Was he the man responsible for that debacle?  No, he wasn’t. 

Huh?   Let Rob himself explain.

He is staying in the job, he says, in response to demands for his resignation because, “I’ve got to judge this over the range of my job description, which is wide.  It involves overseeing the England team.  It doesn’t involve hands-on management of the England team.”

If such a statement can claim any redeeming mitigation, it is that it is as clear and unrepentant as anything else that comes out of the mouths of RFU executives these days.    

“We are not to blame,” they cry in unison. “It’s all the fault of the manager, the coaches, the players and the rest of the people we appointed.  We weren’t there.”

It is unlikely that you will ever find yourself on a distressed ocean liner with Mr. Andrew, but if you do, stay close to him – because if anyone can find a way to salvation, he will.

Rugby’s very own unsinkable Molly Brown.


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