So, it’s open season at St Boshington’s – the recently-leaked RFU review of the tournament is out, and it does not make for pretty reading. The only people who seem to come out of it with any credit are Graham Rowntree and Tom “Woody” Wood – and the rest seemed to be engaged in constant squabbling and disagreements, which range from the predictable (“we had no gameplan”) to the petty (“we had to drive in traffic”).
Now, a lot has been written about how Johnno bottled it after their Lansdowne Road tonking, how England reverted to a dire brand of rugby and how consistency of selection evaporated in the face of media pressure, but we knew all that already.
And given the way the RWC went for England, the breadth of the moaning was entirely predictable – a modern version of Tolstoy’s classic line springs to mind – happy families all wear black and get Craig Joubert to work for them, every unhappy family is unhappy in their own way. Every team apart from the winners (and possibly Argentina) went home giving off about something (the coach, barracking of their star player, referees applyication of the laws, bias towards big teams, etc.).
The most surprising element to us was as follows. If you looked at the England squad pre-tournament and asked, Who are the biggest dickheads here who are likely to rock the boat?, you would have settled on younger lads – Ashton, Armitage and Hartley perhaps. You would have said the Shaws, Moodys and Tindalls of this world are the good eggs, the leaders, the ones who have been there and done it – they will be the ones to grasp the nettle, and guide the younger players through the tournament.
Yet the opposite happened – Tindall let the side down completely with his antics in Queenstown, Moody played shop steward and demanded more money before getting on the plane, and Shaw disappeared completely. Contrast this to Ben Youngs taking over coaching duties (then not being picked), and Tom Wood earning the respect of his peers (notwithstanding the jeering at players who trained hard) by always giving 100% in training despite having no chance of being picked.
The core of young men who had dragged Northampton from the depths of the Championship to the cusp of European glory last season – Hartley, Wood, Ashton, Foden – were marginalized in the team hierarchy in favour of the remaining men of 2003 (in complete contrast to Wales, for example). In a sense, who can blame Johnno – the 2003 team were real men who knew what was needed and did it on the pitch when it mattered – witness Clive Woodward being shooed away before extra time in the final that year.
Johnno gave those men the role of leaders of a team still in transition and they failed him utterly, behaving in a manner they would never have when Johnno and Lawrence Bruno Nero were the team generals. Johnno was simply too loyal to these men.  And they thoroughly let their country down, something the two above heroes never did in their playing days.
Finally, while the RFU is frantically compiling a report on who leaked this report, this might just be the best thing that ever happened to English rugby.  There can be no more papering over the cracks.  The coaches’ positions are no longer tenable, Johnno has already walked the plank, and surely now, England will build a new side around the likes of Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw and the Bens Youngs and Foden.  A new, experienced, respected head coach, with a team of his choosing, is the first order of the day.


  1. For me it really depends how the England players where defining "Senior", is it on age or caps? Someone like Dylan Hartley despite his young age I would say has quite a senior status in the English side as does I imagine Le Hasq. Some of the comments regarding behaviour could definitely be attributed to them. However many of the honest players seem to have been let down by Tindall, Moody, Cueto et al.

  2. Is it entirely fair to call the traffic thing "petty"? It's explicitly raised in the context of players' muscles seizing up after long and arduous training sessions; just the sort of minor, easily-overlooked yet consequential flub that Woodward, for all his faults, would never have let happen. In other words, it goes to the management's professionalism and competence…

  3. @JSRF – a good point. I wasn't sure exactly which camp Le Hasque (39 caps) would fit into, and Hartley has more caps (34) than I'd thought – I had him at around 20 in my mind. But given the way they were sidelined by Jonno for Easter/Moody and Thommo, they probably haven't attained senior status just yet…@toro toro While we're trying to take things at face value, you have to suspect that some players took the opportunity to vent about anything and everything. No lengthy tour abroad is going to be without its hitches, and this probably wouldn't have been mentioned at all if England had done well.

  4. Letting Ashton off the hook for the bothering of the hotel maid there?Anyway, a good write up. Much as I enjoy the pain of the English rugby team (and, living in England, good god I do!) this has gone beyond voyeuristic pleasure. This team and their union need a rebuilding from the ground up.

  5. During the WC England's campaign looked to me like a junior end of season tour. With these leeks I am now fully convinced. It's worrying/depressing to think they got as far as we did.

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