Will Carling’s leadership qualities have been described as “a complete myth” as questions are raised about England coach Eddie Jones’ latest addition to his management team.
But Stuart Barnes, one of Carling’s England team mates and now respected rugby pundit at The Times, mocked that theory in a hard-hitting column.
“Is the story relevant or another case of gimmickry and Eddie searching for another shiny trinket?” Barnes asked and then answered it himself.
“Will was the romantic cavalier figure. He cut a dash through the newspapers, added a sexy element to the sport that was missing through the early and middle years of the uninspired Eighties. There is no doubt his presence was a stimulant, that he was good for England, but the great leader is a complete myth. His role was as much linked to who he was, how he looked, as to what he did and thought.
Former first-five Barnes conceded that England “rediscovered pride” under Carling but put their performance improvement down to the “genius” of coach Geoff Cooke and said Carling was fortunate to operate with a “potent pack” in front of him.
“Tactically he was undistinguished. I wouldn’t have followed him into a cave of Bordeaux’s greatest vintages, let alone a metaphorical battle, but maybe that’s just me and my outsider ways,” Barnes wrote in The Times.
Barnes said there was sense in providing a link between eras but wondered if the public schooled Carling was the right figure to provide that in the current diversified England setup.
“I am not sure a team with as many players hailing from overseas as the present side will be too thrilled with tales of Carling quoting ‘We band of brothers’ from Shakespeare’s Henry V on the bus ride to Twickenham before a test against France
“With Dylan Hartley and Owen Farrell as co-captains, it is hard to believe that England will be short of the up-and-at-’em philosophy Carling heroically provided in spades. But long term, it is the decision-making they lack and the Harlequin, who ran through brick walls as he did, is not the man to help England in this department.