Here’s an A Level question for you: Compare and contrast the following statements. "I'm not walking away from this, I don't believe I should" and "I offered to resign. It's quite simple; I am the director of rugby".
Extra marks will be given for identifying the speakers.
Anyone? The first one’s easy, it can only be the hapless Andy Robinson, English rugby’s cocker-upper extraordinaire whose failure to see the writing on the South Stand is the only thing more astounding than the lows to which he has taken the national side.
The second? Events at Vicarage Road on Sunday mean there’s every chance these words from John Brain will pass into history without further comment.
Not only did the Worcester director of rugby fashion his team’s first win of the season at a venue where they had never tasted victory – a few days earlier, when he was in Robinson’s position, he did the honourable thing and offered to save his employer the indignity of sacking him. He should be respected for that.
I will admit that was not my first reaction to the news that it was Anthony Eddy who had paid the price for Worcester’s poor start to the campaign. I had naturally assumed that since Brain hired the Australian, it was the same man who fired him and it was, therefore, with a good deal of cynicism I attended last week’s press conference at Sixways. The usual dollies were dished up – ‘Got any fresh injuries, John?" – before things really got going.
"Did your position come into consideration, John?" Without hesitation, he fixed his audience with a stare and revealed he had saved Cecil Duckworth the unpleasant task of bloodletting. Compare and contrast, indeed.
Following defeat at Harlequins – as poor a performance from Worcester as I can remember seeing – despite Eddy’s immediate protestations to the contrary, Brain knew that the status quo was no longer an option. He also knew that once Duckworth had decided to do something about the club’s position, he could not be seen to let Eddy take all of the responsibility.
So where does Robinson’s belief that he should stay in his position come from? It can’t be results; victory in the first game with South Africa meant this English team narrowly averted becoming statistically the worst in history. They are surely the most directionless.
It can’t be his flair for man-management. Remember when he hauled Henry Paul off 20 minutes into a game with Australia? What about the time he picked Mathew Tait and then dropped him after one game?
Or maybe the occasion he omitted Pat Sanderson from the Elite Player Squad only to name him in the team for last year’s autumn internationals three months later.
And there’s no way on earth it can be the quality of his team’s performances. The 2006 Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield was the most embarrassing attempt at cracking a defence I have seen from an England XV.
The loss to Argentina earlier this month was a wretched, rudderless performance and the capitulation to the Springboks last weekend summed up a team whose confidence is shot. There’s nothing left for him to do. Give someone else a chance.