‘There is a line and he stepped over it’

Less than a month before England begin the defence of the rugby World Cup, David Walsh, in the Sunday Times, interviewed the man who might have been leading the squad in France, Andy Robinson, in a piece that says as much about sports journalism as it does about rugby coaching

Andy Robinson laughs, but without the wonderful, almost manic energy that fuels much of his laughter. “Sky’s two analysts, Stuart Barnes and Dewi Morris, believed I should be replaced as coach and the guy interviewing me was just giving out the party line.

“After a game you have lost, it is a tough time because all you feel is the huge disappointment of defeat. Especially at Twickenham, which was a fortress, and I understand the hurt felt by supporters. Ultimately I was responsible for that and that’s why I’m no longer England coach. I never set out to court favour from anybody in the press. I wanted them to write what they felt. But there were situations where people overstepped the mark.

“Probably the worst was when the Sky Sports’ camera focused on my family at the end of the South Africa game. They knew what they were doing. That was cheap. Cheap journalism. The sport’s bigger than that, I’m bigger than that – there are certain things you don’t do.”

At the time most commentators believed England needed to change their coach. Barnes, writing for this newspaper two weeks before the decision to remove Robinson, said: “If Andy Robinson were to leave now, it would not be soon enough.”

How tough is it when a former teammate is so dismissive? “He overstepped the mark, but that’s Barnesy. I knew it was coming. He’s ruthless. He’s got to write it as he feels it, but I’m disappointed, yeah.”

Does it affect your friendship with him? “Yeah. You can’t come back from that. I can’t come back from that. I know you work for The Sunday Times, he might come back with an answer to this and you might be setting me up here. There is a line and he stepped over that line. That’s his choice and he’s made it.”

Read the interview in full by clicking here

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