THE RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION, English rugby’s governing body, has moved to distance itself from accusations of over-confidence after a Nike advert commissioned to celebrate the country’s Grand Slam victory was leaked on the internet.
The ad, which featured footage of stars Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Toby Flood, featured a banner proclaiming England to be “Grand Slam Champions 2011.”
Although England did win the Six Nations championship, they failed in their bid to record their first Grand Slam since 2003 when they were comprehensively beaten 24-8 by Ireland on Saturday.
The video was part of a wider promotional campaign designed by Nike, England’s kit sponsors, to celebrate the victory. According to an internal e-mail which appears to have leaked, the sporting giant had also created a commemorative t-shirt which would be given to the players “when we win against Ireland on Saturday.”
In an attempt to close the book on an incredibly embarrassing situation, the RFU issued a statement earlier today explaining that the ad and the t-shirts were merely prepared as contingencies in case of an English win, denying that they expected to easily defeat Ireland.
The RFU works with all its commercial partners on their sponsorship activation.
Forward planning is a crucial part of all commercial partnerships and all contingencies, winning or losing, have to be considered.
It is disappointing that details of Nike’s internal planning has got into the public domain.
The statement also stressed that “in no way did the RFU or the England team underestimate the challenge that the Ireland team would pose.”
“We were well beaten by a team who played better and we have the utmost respect for Declan Kidney and the Irish players.”
In addition to the RFU’s comments, Nike have also issued a statement in which they defended the need to plan for all eventualities.
We commissioned a celebration T-shirt and a video featuring the players, as we obviously need to plan ahead.
It’s unfortunate that this email has been leaked, and perhaps the lesson is to be less optimistic in our internal communications.
WATCH: Nike celebrate the Grand Slam that never was >