x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Gary Neville the wrong choice to give international pep talks

The decision by Stuart Lancaster, the interim England rugby union coach, to invite speakers to motivate his team is good. But the former Manchester United player has stronger ties to his club than his national football team.

Stuart Lancaster, the interim England coach, attracted a fairly impressive list of keynote speakers this week to address the players under his caretaker charge for the Six Nations Championship. And then there was Gary Neville.

Lancaster, who acknowledged he is keen to land the role full time, called in a little help from his friends to motivate an England side still in purgatory after their miserable Rugby World Cup campaign last year.

They were hardly from the A-list, but they were not bad. Hugh Morris, who started this month on tour in Dubai, knows a thing or two about success having overseen the rise of English cricket in recent years.

Kevin Sinfield must have accrued some wisdom in winning numerous titles with the Leeds Rhinos in Super League, plus many caps for the England rugby league team.

However, asking Neville, the former Manchester United and England defender, to try to remind the players of the pride and honour they should be feeling in representing their country was a risky business.

Sure, he would deliver the "you don't know how lucky you are" lines with brio. However, there would always be the danger it would sound like the whine of a famed shop-steward.

His brief was to warn the rugby players against underachievement. It is an important message, but one that might have been better received from someone whose ties are stronger to the international game than his club.


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