Monthly Archives: October 2015

How Stuart Lancaster coached England


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


Research goes better with coke

The London Times today (09/10/2015) provides yet more evidence of the need to approach academic research with considerable caution. Conclusions should not be taken at face value until one has checked the political, commercial and religious connections of the university concerned.

And this health warning extends to think tanks and consultants, so many of whom present themselves as independent when they appear on the media – a little research can show that they are not nearly as independent as they represent themselves.

The Times reports that Coca Cola has “poured millions of pounds into British scientific research and healthy eating initiatives to counter claims that its drinks help to cause obesity.”

It says that the company “has financial links to more than a dozen British scientists, including government health advisers and others who cast doubt on the commonly accepted link between sugary drinks and the obesity crisis.”

This is only the latest instance where these types of links have been exposed and cast doubt on the credibility of research.

In August – – I highlighted the row over a report suggesting that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than smoking tobacco.

The Lancet – – argues that this conclusion depends, at least in part, on a study that itself relies heavily on evidence produced by industry-funded scientists.

And I have tracked a number of instances where links appear to be too close – and many more distinguished people than me are worried about this and the way in which lobbies distort the findings of research to suit their own interests.

One of my recent blogs summarises this –

Academics will always insist that they preserve academic integrity and supporters of the sponsors will complain that sceptics should address the message rather than the funding of the messenger.

But we must be more sceptical and keep asking the key questions. Do the universities have commercial sponsors, whose views just happen to coincide with the research findings? Do the researchers have a track record of supporting a particular view on a subject? Do the academics have a commercial company whose interests will benefit from the findings of the research?

There is a particular obligation on newspapers and broadcasters, who rely for many good stories on academics, think tanks and consultants – many of them spun by energetic PR departments eager to promote their institutions.

Media outlets, particularly those like Radio5Live which is all too easily attracted by lurid research, should be much more rigorous in examining the researchers before they accept the research without question.