This is not my usual style or content but I think I can justify including this parody of Kipling’s If here because Stuart Lancaster did deceive us into beleiving that England had a good rugby team capable of winning the world cup.
After writing the parody I came across the following video reworking of the poem, which was produced in the happy days before the disappointment of the World Cup. I do recommend watching this before reading my sadly less optimistic ode.
As related by John Lancaster to his son
If you can keep your job when all about you
Are losing faith and blaming failure on you.
If you can be sure that all those who assess you
Will find every excuse to see you through.
If you can wait and hope you will not be sacked,
And ignore those who no longer show admiration.
Or, being damned by the fans, smile inanely back,
And mouth the platitude that you let down the nation.
If you can delude yourself that your team is great,
And you cannot tell the difference between triumph and disaster.
If you can pretend the losses were due to a twist of fate,
And that you remain your team’s best master.
If you can believe the words you have spoken
Had all the wisdom the players needed to perform well.
If you can claim the game your team played was open,
And that you had not condemned your fans to a month of hell.
If you can negotiate a new contract for six more years
Even though you lose almost all the games that count.
If you can appoint coaches who are wet behind the ears,
And whose errors mount and mount.
If you can select a team that never looks too good or smart,
And a captain who rarely takes the right decision.
If you can insist that all that really matters is heart,
And ignore everyone’s complete derision.
If you can choose a number seven whose breakdown skills were undone,
And ignore the one with talent, only because he plays in France.
If you can choose as fly half your defence coach’s son,
And reject those whose skill would have given your side a chance.
If you can delude yourself you have chosen the best possible team,
And that your players are as good as those from New Zealand.
Then, however ridiculous it may seem,
You, my son, will be the head rugby coach of England.
Nigel Dudley (with due respect to Rudyard Kipling