Monday 23 September 2019

Sinead Kissane: No-excuse culture must extend to board decisions

England coach Eddie Jones. Photo: Getty Images
England coach Eddie Jones. Photo: Getty Images
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has been trying to promote a no-excuse culture in the Wallabies squad with the presumed premise being exactly what it says on the tin: everyone taking responsibility for their decisions and actions.

Cheika has a history of run-ins with match officials and media which leaves the sense that he's willing to publicly blame others rather than openly hold himself accountable for his team's performances.

"We have made a conscious effort to change the character profile of the players and develop a different approach to the game," Cheika said before Australia's game against England last November.

"We needed to make it a no-excuse culture. It is about doing everything to be the best you can be and owning everything, the good and the bad. We are learning to be more resilient because not having resilience is a big symptom of the excuse culture."

The following day it was easy to wonder if Michael Cheika had signed up to Michael Cheika's no-excuse culture. England recorded a 30-6 win over Australia in a game which had a number of controversial calls.

Cheika was caught mouthing "f****** cheats' after one incident and he also became involved in a heated exchange of words with England supporters which did little to promote the idea that the example of responsibility should be set from the top down. But it didn't stop him pushing his no-excuse message after the game even if it all rang a little hollow with his actions.

"Ifs don't count. We're looking to make a no-excuses culture in our footy and we're not making any excuses," Cheika said.

"Sometimes things go against you and you've got to learn from those".

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If Cheika is striving towards creating a no-excuse culture with Australia, it seems his fellow Aussie Eddie Jones already has it nailed with England.

When it comes to England, Jones demands and accepts.

After England played poorly in their 'grindathon' 21-8 win over Argentina last November, Jones didn't selfishly save face for himself but instead took responsibility for the team's actions and his decisions.

"I thought our effort and application were first class. Argentina are a difficult team but I obviously didn't coach the team well enough. It's my fault the team didn't play well so I take full responsibility for that. I just didn't coach them well enough."

Jones took the same approach after Ireland beat England, their only defeat since Jones took over, on the final day of the Six Nations last year when England were going for a Grand Slam at the Aviva Stadium.

"I take full responsibility for the loss today. The team didn't play well so I've got to look at the preparation and fix it. Simple," Jones said.

It's what you want from someone in charge, isn't it? To take responsibility. To take ownership of the good and the bad. To come out with the truth instead of rubbish excuses which show little respect to supporters.

When someone like Jones takes responsibility for an outcome, it shows a clear chain of command that every effort will be made to fix whatever went wrong.

It's also not hard to imagine that it gives confidence to players that their boss has their back with the assumed payback being collective responsibility and honesty behind closed doors.

In Munster, a culture of honesty is among the values held by the province when it comes to the team and their performances.

This week, Peter O'Mahony was still visibly annoyed with himself for a moment of ill-discipline at the end of the first half of their defeat to Racing 92 last weekend when he was penalised by the referee and made matters worse by arguing his case which resulted in the penalty being brought forward to within kicking range, which Racing took advantage of.

O'Mahony didn't make excuses for something he had direct responsibility for.

"It's a big part of the role the way you lead and that wasn't a very impressive moment as a captain at any level. "I know that more than anyone and I've got to go and address that myself and as a team we take it on the chin," O'Mahony said on Tuesday.

"We'd love to get our penalty count down a little bit. We try and not take that away from us being on the edge of getting stuck into things.

"I'm the captain of the team and that's unacceptable as well. If you've got your leaders ill-disciplined, it's going to filter. It's something for me personally to work on and obviously the team as well."

Ahead of their game with Castres at Thomond Park tomorrow, you can bet that every penalty Munster conceded last weekend will be forensically analysed to make sure they don't make the same mistake again.

Real leadership is finding the words and means to ask the hardest questions of your own so I wouldn't expect O'Mahony to hold back on himself and his team-mates when it comes to hammering home the ramifications of ill-discipline.

You can also bet Munster will have tried to cover every eventuality for tomorrow's game in an attempt to reduce the margin for error.

A no-excuse culture holds coaches and players accountable for their decisions and their actions. But what about further up the food-chain?

It's been an emotive and highly uncomfortable few weeks for Munster off the field. But if players and coaches are expected to take ownership of the good and the bad when it comes to their decision-making on the pitch, the exact same approach should be applied to those making decisions at boardroom level.

A no-excuse culture should go all the way to the very top.

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