The man at the top is constantly making decisions that affect everyone else. It’s a tough job even when things are going well – trying to keep player No24 feeling positive when the 23 in front of him are in good form is not the easiest job, for example – but it is also a role where many of your calculated decisions can go wrong because of circumstances out of your control.
The Tig has cast a mind back to some of the key weekends of the season and tried to take a step in the boss’s shoes, and it is not a comfortable fit.
Try this for example, in week one, you have a home game you are expected to win, your fly-half and captain is ruled out by concussion, several international players have not had much of a pre-season and your Lions have been back for just a couple of weeks. You’ve pencilled in a team a few weeks in advance, but have failed to factor in the fly-half getting wiped out in the last pre-season match. What is the contingency? Then Tom Croft gets through 80 minutes, only to require major surgery on a knee injury, ruling him out for the rest of the season. Does the gameplan change? Does Steve Mafi slot straight into his place?
Week two, Mafi slots into Croft’s shoes but then gets injured, now what? And is it time to bring in Ben Youngs and Manu? Flood hasn’t been fully involved in training but could be fit to play, does he come straight back in?
England players are to be rested in Round 3, 4 or 5 if required by Stuart Lancaster, so do you do it all at once or drip-freed it? Who will Lancaster want to see with his feet up? Manu is injured in his first appearance of the season, so who comes in at 13? Do you reshuffle with Niki Goneva moving in off the wing and find someone else at 14 or make a striaght swap? Remember Matt Smith is also injured.
Two weeks later Anthony Allen suffers an injury which is to keep him out for three or four months. Allen, Tuilagi and Smith are already out, then Goneva joins them. Now what?
Injury means you are a bit thin in the backline for the start of the European campaign, but Miles Benjamin is fit – can he go straight in after 15 months on the sidelines? If not, who plays?
Geoff Parling is ruled out until the new year after surgery on both shoulders, do you go for a straight swap with same size and same calls with different personnel, or alter your set-piece plan to suit the guys available?
Who needs a rest in the LV= Cup window and who needs gametime? Who do we wrap up in cotton wool and who do we risk? Can we afford to put any specialist centres out to play? Which young players are ready? Do we need to use a core of senior players as leaders?
With Saints at home a week before the back-to-backs with Montpellier, how much will a local derby take out of the squad? Does training need to taper accordingly before two of the biggest games of the season?
Do we have enough weight up front to take Montpellier on in a battle? Do we pick the heaviest eight? How do we prise open a hole in the Montpellier defence? How will defeat in the Leicester game affect their selection in the return? Are they even more dangerous in the knowledge they can take risks?
After three massive games in three weeks, and internationals away, how many changes will we have to make for Wasps away?
With Flood away and Lamb injured, what is the cover at 10 for Owen Williams? Bowden is starting consistently at 12 but if he moves to 10 who takes a role in an already-disrupted midfield?
Logovi’i Mulipola is injured on international duty – as Camacho and Parling have been already – but will he back for key games in Europe? How much can we get out of the props with one key figure out of the rotation?
How can Mathew Tait get his sharpness without many opportunities ahead of key games in Europe? Will he get through a comeback game on the artificial surface at Saracens? What happens if he doesn’t?
Rob Hawkins is fit, where will he get his first game of the season? How close is Manu to getting fit? When will Mulipola be back? Mafi is back but has played barely an hour this season, how will he go in a big European game? Crane or Waldrom? Benjamin or Thompstone? Lamb or Williams? Briggs or Hawkins?
How do we replace Toby Flood next season? How do we provide competitive depth at No8 if Thomas Waldrom joins Exeter? Which other parts of the squad need reinforcing? How many of our players will be targets for other clubs?
Will we have enough time after this set of scrums to go for a bonus-point try?
With our defence in this kind of form, how are Ulster going to score?
Where do we get a chance to rest Salvi, Ayerza, Cole or Tom Youngs? How many senior players do we want to play in the last two rounds of the LV= Cup?
Who is Stuart Lancaster going to pick for England and who will he send back during the Six Nations period? And when? Can they slot straight back in despite missing training?
Every single answer has an effect on the final outcome. And you could still end up with the decisive question being answered by circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Why couldn’t the chargedown kick have bounced dead or into touch?