England vow to clean up on world stage

England's changing room at Twickenham

England's changing room at Twickenham

ENGLAND’S rugby players will continue cleaning up when they visit Argentina this summer.

Skipper Dylan Hartley introduced a policy of designated players cleaning the changing room after matches last Autumn - and continued it through the Six Nations.

His team were keen and will be doing the same when they play two Tests against Argentina in June. It might sound menial, but the underlying principles are those of excellence and humility.

The New Zealand All Blacks have had a policy of ‘sweeping the decks’ for several years now. This means leaving a changing room at least as good as you found it - and even superstars like Dan Carter and Richie McCaw have been expected to get involved.

The theory is to be absolutely excellent in everything you do - from executing a midfield move in a World Cup final to mopping the floors after playing a lesser Test nation.

Lock Sam Whitelock explained: “Leaving the changerooms or training ground the way you found it - or in a better state - is a part of every team I’ve been involved with. Richie and Dan are no different to any other player in that regard.”

Lincoln boss Danny Cowley has followed the All Blacks' lead for the last two seasons.

He said: “We always clean the dressing room wherever we go. We conceded at Braintree - a terrible goal in a pivotal game - but we still swept up.

“The All Blacks call it ‘sweep the decks’. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us. We always make sure we clean up and leave the changing room as we found it.”

In contrast, Arsenal left Sutton United’s away dressing room in a mess following their FA Cup match there in February. There were half-empty bottles, used tissues and strapping on the floor, while a big bottle of milk was left on a radiator.

The idea of sweeping the decks originally comes from the military.

Arsenal left Sutton's changing room in a sorry state

Former Royal Marine Commando JJ Chalmers, who was blown up in Afghanistan in 2011 and went on to become a television presenter, told TGG: “In the Marines, you draw the line at excellence, no matter what you are doing. It’s all about standards.

“I remember a guy getting chewed out for failing to clean some portaloos properly. The sergeant came out and said, ‘I’ve asked you to clean a toilet. How can I trust you to have my back and look after the guys around me if you can’t get the fundamentals right?”

Liverpool’s legendary manager, Bill Shankly, served in the RAF during the Second World War, on an enforced break from playing for Preston and Scotland.

When he returned to football, the military standards came with him.

“In the services during the war you got some horrible jobs,” he remembered (below). “They got you in the cookhouse to dry about 6,000 dishes. Well, if I had a job to do, even if it was scrubbing the floor, I wanted my floor to be cleaner than yours.

“If everyone thinks along these lines and does all the small jobs to the best of their ability, that’s honesty. Then the world would be better and football would be better.”

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