Bryn Palmer

Reality hits home for England (97)

Versailles - Hallelujah, the fog appears to have lifted.

If England’s displays over the last few weeks and months were not evidence enough, then Friday’s 36-0 humbling by the Springboks seems to have done the trick.

Those inside the camp have finally admitted the reality: England no longer have any world-class players.

Not my observation, but that of assistant coach Mike Ford, England’s defence specialist.

As the post mortem into Friday’s rout continued at their Versailles base, Ford’s honest appraisal of the difference between the teams was striking.

“I don’t think South Africa did anything really special, apart from an excellent kicking game,” he noted. “Plus they have got one or two world-class players and (scrum-half) Fourie du Preez was a massive, massive difference. He saw three opportunities, and they scored three tries from them.

“We were disappointed with our game management and understanding of the game. But we are where we are with some of the players we have got. No disrespect to anybody but we just haven’t got those sort of world-class players in our team.”

Such a candid observation before the tournament might have served to deflate the expectations of the more wildly optimistic red rose fans, that England would miraculously stumble onto an elusive magic formula and re-create the spirit of 2003.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realise it then, but the upbeat pre-tournament predictions from Brian Ashton and the squad did nothing to deflate such hopes, insisting that ‘we might surprise a few people yet’.

As Ford also noted, however, any side with pretentions of winning the World Cup generally has half-a-dozen players who are the best in their positions in the world.

“In 2003 we probably had six or seven players who would probably have got in a world XV,” Ford said, perhaps mentally reeling off Martin Johnson, Richard Hill, Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back, Jonny Wilkinson, Jason Robinson.

He could equally have been thinking of Steve Thompson, Phil Vickery, or maybe Matt Dawson, Will Greenwood?

Ah, you might counter, but four of those mentioned are still involved now aren’t they?

True, but Robinson’s performance the other night aside, when was the last time we saw a world-class performance from any of Dallaglio (dropped for the Boks game), Vickery (suspended) or even Wilkinson (injured again) - the latter's dramatic comeback against Scotland in February notwithstanding?

“I am not sure how many we would get in now,” Ford added. “I am not saying ours are not great players, it is just that other teams have overtaken us.”

Such candid talk is welcome. It is not, as some sports people seem to think, a bad thing to admit that everything is not hunky dory.

England’s problems at this World Cup are not just of the current squad’s making. As documented previously, four years of poor planning, selection and stagnation bring inevitable results.

“The problem is we are still finding out about players in this World Cup,” Ford went on. “We obviously think we get selection right for every game, but as a game unfolds, we are still finding out about players, when they are performing under intense pressure in front of 70,000 people, that maybe we didn’t know before.

“In 2003 they weren’t doing selection at the World Cup. They knew their best side before – probably a year before. We are not in that position. We are finding out things about players all the time. We think we are going to pick the best 15 to play Samoa, but we are still looking during games to see what the players can do.”

So who will play against Samoa? The team is now due to be announced on Tuesday, but we know Brian Ashton will have to make at least two changes.

Jason Robinson, despite the upbeat assessment that his World Cup is not over yet, is highly unlikely to play against Samoa.

So who plays full-back? Mathew Tait, who came on to replace him against South Africa? The 21-year-old was brought as cover for the position, but has not looked comfortable, particularly in the kicking department, in his few brief outings here to date.

Tait is also a candidate to replace club-mate Jamie Noon at outside centre, where Dan Hipkiss, and whoever is called up to replace Noon, will also come into the equation.

Mark Cueto? Ashton dropped his original choice at full-back after the USA game, citing the Sale player’s struggle to recapture his best form after a recent injury.

It is difficult to believe he has found it in training meantime, although perhaps a return to his old wing position might do the trick?

That could even free up Josh Lewsey for the number 15 jersey, although that would also fly in the face of Ashton’s policy of selecting players in what he considers their best position.

Paul Sackey and Shaun Perry may have been two of the players Ford was referring to in terms of "finding out about players". Neither covered themselves in glory against the Boks, and are obvious candidates for demotion.

Assuming Wilkinson is fit, one assumes he will return at fly-half, with Olly Barkley possibly contesting the number 12 shirt with Mike Catt and Andy Farrell.

Up front, potential changes are not so evident. The front row are likely to be retained en bloc. Would Steve Borthwick add anything to the second-row mix?

Martin Corry could also be moved to lock, if the coaches decide Joe Worsley’s aggressive defence will help counteract the Samoans’ dangerous off-loading game.

Whoever is playing, a welcome dose of realism appears to have invaded Camp England, if it wasn’t there already in private.

“We have been talking the talk for a while now, haven’t we?” Ford added. “Now we have to walk the walk, or we are going home.”


Bryn Palmer is the BBC Sport website’s rugby union editor.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 04:47 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Malcolm Wilson wrote:

A dose of realism isn't going to hurt anybody but I suggest we get real about the clubs here in England.

With the signing of ex-international S. Hemisphere players continuing at an undiminished pace, it's clear that the clubs priorities are to follow the money, chase Trophies and to hell with international Rugby. Every imported player of this type means a denial of opportunity for a talented home-grown player, whether it's in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland. Many will say that it ain't so and that the likes of this club, or that club are bringing lots of talent through and that the club game forms the basis of the representative sides. I simply don't see it.

That's not to say I want to see a return of the amateur game but so long as clubs think the way they do we will never see the likes of the English 2003 squad repeated, simply because we will never again have that many world-class players to draw upon. England are by no means unique in this and I fear that any country with clubs involved in the HC, for example, will eventually suffer the same way.

Answer me this: how many N.Hemisphere players are playing regularly in the 1st XVs of the major clubs in the big three of the S.Hemisphere?

  • 2.
  • At 05:10 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

Err... now that Samoa looked a bit rubbish against Tonga we can still lose to them, beat Tonga and qualify... so the worst England side for decades may actually reach the quarter-finals after all!

  • 3.
  • At 05:34 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • R Baker wrote:

Forgive me Bryn, not familiar with your work, but do I take it you originate from the extreme west end of the M4? You certainly appear to have approached this topic with some passion - even though I accept you're simply quoting the coaching staff.

Frankly making these comments at this stage raises more questions about the competence of the coaches than it does about the players. OK we have to get real but perhaps it would be smart to wait until after the pool games before going public. And it does occur to me that by about this time in 2003 the guys you name as world class players were being slagged off for being too old and over the hill.

  • 4.
  • At 05:36 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Alan Melville wrote:

LOL yes they may. Where they'll play Australia, who enjoy beating ingerlund even more than everyone else does. Unlike the Boks, the wallabies, cynical and ruthless sods that they are, won't ease up. I think england fans might think back to 36-0 and feel grateful to the saffers.

  • 5.
  • At 05:37 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Being candid is all well and good among fans and pundits, but for Mike FOrd to come out with an interview like this - what purpose does it serve?

Its a little much for a coach to write off his own side!

England has gone wrong in the past few years - basic skills like the back 3 being able to kick from hand appear to have been lost, not to mention the ability to break over the gain line. In addition Wikinson has lost any spark of brilliance, and actually is a far worse distributor than Barkley so far this world cup.

The forward are big, but they were utterly bossed in the loose by the springbok back row.

The management structure needs to be sorted - from head coach all the way up to the RFU itself; let's get some focus back, and realise that northern hemisphere rugby is utterly miles behind our southern hemisphere teams - in basic skills, the breakdown and creativity.

I'm frankly embarassed by the performance of the home nations so far!

  • 6.
  • At 05:43 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • James wrote:

This honesty is 3 years too late. It'll be interesting to see what changes are made in the near future, if any...

Thankfully Tonga helped us out today with a great performance.

  • 7.
  • At 05:53 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Sortit wrote:

STW - Shock The World, or was it Seize The Woodenspoon

  • 8.
  • At 06:25 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Rsuppards wrote:

The latest result of Tonga turning over Samoa just proves that so far in this WC only the All Blacks have really hit any form.
Boks had wobbles against Samoa but managed to get through those, but almost without exception the rest have spent large periods trying to shoot themselves in the foot.

What does this mean for England?
If they can cut out stupid errors and put together some continuity, then they have a chance of progressing (sounds easy, dunnit?)

Even the Aussies have been less than commanding, so could be there for the taking in quarter finals.

All the arguments about who should or should not be in the team or even in the squad are sterile.

What this world cup has proved is that Englands victory in 2003 was in spite of the system of rugby in this country.
Time for both the RFU and the clubs to think on or the gravy train that is senior rugby in this country could come to a grinding (and expensive) halt.

  • 9.
  • At 06:32 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • cY wrote:


probably a bit too much negativity here from over-reacting england fans.

when they win a game they're the best in the world, when they lose then everyone ought to be dropped...

we won three scrums against the head, along with a penalty and a free kick from bok offences at the scrum. against one of the world's strongest packs that shows that power clearly isn;t a problem for the england pack despite much of what has been written since.

the lineout was shaky, but then SA are regarded as having the best line out going...

the back row was - as has been pointed out over and over for the last four years - woefully unbalanced. time after time Rees got to the break down to compete for the ball only to be smashed off it by three boks as the rest of the england pack laboured towards the ball... we need moody at 6 to give us a chance. power is utterly negated if the power players cant get near the ball. blaming Corry is pointless - no one has ever considered him a pacy 6 or a dog on the floor. Ashton's selection here has been every but as bad as Andy Robinsons.

Perry was shocking at 9. Must be dropped.

Catt isn't a 10. But then we all knew that... Wilko to come in at 10 with Barclay at 12.

Noon - thank god he's going home. he should never have gone to France in the first place - never mind been in the 1st 15. Tait, Hipkiss, Ollie Simth, JSD, Lewsey, all are far far better players.

Lewsey stopped Habana scoring, and made one try saving tackle... Probably moves to 15 to cover Robinson. And to the author of the lead article - Ashton's policy of playing people in their best position doesn't extend to Cueto (a winger at fb) or Corry (an 8 at 6 or 4) so why does it seem to apply exclusively to JL?

Sackey was awful. Schoolboy defence and toothless in attack. should be dropped unless he shows that he's suddenly matured beyond belief...

  • 10.
  • At 06:44 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Seyler wrote:

I can only agree with Malcolm Wilson, and reflect on the recent poor form of the England Football team too... While we have had a pleasing couple of victories recently, the press has been reminding us all on a regular basis about the effect of too many foreign players in the Premiership, effectively demoting English players to lower leagues, or at least reducing their chances of top flight football. Is this now happening to rugby too? Is it time to set limits within teams, and only allow a certain numbers of foreign players (those not eligible to play for home countries) in each match team?

  • 11.
  • At 07:24 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Ian Thynne wrote:

The time to revolutionise English rugby is upond us.

We are playing a brand of rugby that is out of date. Its a brand built on the fear of failure and the obsession to 'do the basics' which is ironic, because we can't actually do that.

Its no coincedence that the minnows who have nothing to fear are frigtening the so called big hitters. Its also no coincidence that all these big hitters are the Six Nation teams.

We have all been left behind, whilst we mix together on a regular basis, in the 6 nations and the European Cup, we have no outside input. For a number of years the Southern Hemisphere have been developing a brand of rugby we have ignored.

You only have to watch the Super 14s to realise that. Why kick the ball from the 22 to the halfway line when you can run it there and still be in possesion.

There is no fear to try the unexpected, back it up with some talent well groomed in that discipline and you have a winning formula.

Even the minnows are trying new things. Watching Samoa this afternoon, they resorted to an England style game. Not them at all, and unsurprisingly those tactics didn't work. Tonga won.

The all blacks have such a dynamic team. They are the benchmark. Their locks play like 8s, their 8s have the handling of backs. Its total rugby.

We need to break the mould. Corry moving to 4 is a good move, it gave us extra in the 6 nations. But then we dropped it. Shocking. No longer are the locks just big meatheads who catch at lineout time.

You needs 5 back row forwards in the pack and 3 vibrant front rowers. You need a 9 with the mind of a 10. You a need a 12 with the step of a wing and you need an attitude of they may score 2 but we will get 6!

Its wake up time for England, and the Northern Hemisphere.

  • 12.
  • At 07:36 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Frazer Wilde wrote:

It's been said that S. Africa didn't really do anything spectacular on Friday night but in all reality they didn't have to. At times England looked like a pub team, slowing the ball down, giving away cheap penalties. S.A kicked well and towards the end had a nice little run out. They did the basics very well. I don't think you need world class players to do the basics well. You DO need them to make a difference when the game is tight and evenly contested but right now the problem seems to be a total lack of belief hampering the England team. As individuals they have enough quality to play better than they are. As a cohesive collective they are totally lacking and I'm sure the coaching system has a lot to do with that - not only in the game play but psychologically as well. For Phil Vickery - as captain - to say: " We're world champions whether we like it or not..." I think that's a strong pointer to where things need addressing.

  • 13.
  • At 08:01 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Aaron wrote:

call me of short sighted but surely martin corey, having been slated for his 1dimentsional attacking style, would make the second row no more dynamic and only result in losing an out and out lineout operater... corey is fine at the back but is not a 2 or 4 jumper. im in agreement with all those who put this teams dire performances down to the fact that the management seem only desired to cling onto the success of the past. the team should have been dead and buried as soon as they returned, the captain left as did half of the team immediately... it should have been at this point the team was begun again from scratch instead of spending the last 4 years trying to find replacements to play in the same style and mould as their predecessors... you just dont do this, no player is the same, you employ each on HIS merits and build a TEAM not fill a team with "he'll do" players just to enable corey, dalaglio, or even robinson to play how he wishes.. yes im saying even if robinson didnt fit into the TEAM pattern he shouldnt be selected its been proven in the football team with lampard and gerrard that the "best" players do not always make the best teams...

its time for the management to take a step back and read the side of their equipment bags where i imagine they will find it reads "England Rugby Team" and certainly not "England Rugby Individuals" it took an injury crisis for the footy shower to wake up... lets hope as the intelligant game we can approach this with a little more awareness... i dont want to see the rugby media follow in line with the football media, lets support the team and maybe thats what we might end up with...

  • 14.
  • At 08:46 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Ric wrote:

Mike Ford should be sacked immediately. What purpose did his interview serve ? England are playing a terribly poor, tactically inept brand of rugby, and the key players are TOO OLD. This country has sufficient young, talented players, so the problem must lie with the RFU, or the coaching structure ( Mike Ford included ).
If they were as poor as Ford claims, why has he not spoken up sooner ? Rat.... Sinking Ship ??

  • 15.
  • At 08:51 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Andy Newnham wrote:

just seeing his name mentioned above, and that he helped sarries beat wasps what does anyone reckon about richard hill coming back to the fold, even in an advising role?
i'd say he's a better 6 than anyone we've put on the field so far over the last few months. or am i just romanticising?

  • 16.
  • At 09:10 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Jamie wrote:

I believe there are two key problems that need to be addressed by the England coaching staff and management.

Firstly, the selection of 'older and wiser' heads seems to still be the order of the day, where some of these players are really struggling at international level. We don't have any line breakers, other than Robinson, who has yet to reach anything like his 2003 destructivity and now through injury may not play in the RWC again.

Barkley has made some very nice sniping runs. However, one of 7 in the back line making line breaking runs is not good enough. Time and again we watch the ball being passed down the line, with no forward movement whatsoever.

There have been 4 players I can remember who have played for England in the last year with the ability to break the line:

Strettle (currently injured)
Tait (not really been given any major gametime in a position that would suit his style of play).

Instead we fall back on reputation, as usual. It is frustrating to say the least to hear that we just don't have the talent when it is sitting there all along just not being tested.

Secondly, you watch any of the southern hemisphere teams playing and there is one glaring major difference between their style and northern hemisphere rugby. They OFFLOAD in the tackle. Rather than taking the ball to ground, drawing in 2 additional team mates to form the ruck like us English. They instead offload the ball in the tackle, keeping the momentum of the attack, stretching the defence further and further until, holes appear and they can dive straight through.

In the Wales game against Australia, it was the same story, they looked stagnant, slow ball, allowing defence to reform. They didn't look like they were goign to break the line at all. Until deep in the second half they pulled off a sustained attack where offloading in the tackle was a key component. All of a sudden the Aussie defence looked stretched and Wales started finding gaps to glide through.

This is what we need to do more of. We have a great pack, in the mall and lineout and scrum, but they too often look to make only a couple of metres and go to ground rather than break away through some simple passes. Faster rugby from the whole team, less stagnant and more dynamic.

A small rant but I think it needed to be said

  • 17.
  • At 09:22 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • bradley johannie wrote:

i think sa did everything special

they were great on the attack and even better on defence. more than that you cant ask of a team

and if you think about it south africa didnt play portugul or the usa they played england the defending champions.

  • 18.
  • At 09:26 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • PETE wrote:

The result against SA on Friday was a disgrace for English RU.England are the world champions and should be able to put up a better dislpay than the one shown. SA deserved their victory but really the RFU and all who have responsibility for picking and preparing the national squad to defend this trophy should ask and be asked some searching questions about the decisions taken since 2003 concerning the effectiveness of a worthwhile defence in 2007. It is absolutely laughable,diabolical and perverse what has happened. Still the RFU has a scapegoat --Andy Farrell no doubt. What rubbish!And if the powers that be can't do better than Brian Ashtion to front this shambles then God help the lot of them.If AF has any sense he'll leave this motley crew and come back to his real friends.

  • 19.
  • At 09:52 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Toby wrote:

cY I'm with you. I heard so much before the match about the AWESOME AND FEARED front five of SA and i feel that ours had the better of them.

Going into the match i have no idea why we went in there with a kicking game with no field or goal kickers of international standard. I also feel England got very unlucky with alot of early decisions in the game, with the referee seeming strangely reluctant to penalise the SAs, and you could see it effected the confidence of the players suddenly feeling unsure of what they were doing.

I also noticed on the game SA's new way to bring down a maul. Unlike what Chabal did against Namibia they seemed to frequently bind onto the front man like a scrum and drop to their knees to direct the force groundward. In a game where the one place we seemed to exceed them was our front 5 having them not blown up once for this was covering their one weakness.

Also with Farrell has anyone else noticed that although he is good in defence, when attacking he stands up into a tackle looking for the offload, as if playing rugby league. Unfortunately in Rugby Union the need to hold a strong position in a tackle and presenting the ball for the forwards is a must. Someone should point out to him that his job isn't over in this game the moment he's rapped up.

I thing the forwards should remain similar. The backs failing to reach the gain lines is what caused those turn overs i reckon, no necessarily the back row. Perry played rubish again which is unfortunate because he was so good in the warm up games. Also i want to see Sackey get some quality ball which he also didn't have. Though i would love to watch Wilkinson 10, Barkley 12, and Hipkiss 13. Here's hoping they all make a speedy recovery.

I didn't see a SA team that'll win the world cup and if we get the things sorted i could see us taking them on a different day. It's just unfortunate that our best performing players are the young ones and we didn't bring more.

  • 20.
  • At 10:02 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • adrian wrote:

I thought that sport was meant to be an enjoyable past-time, a passion for sure. Maybe this is where we go wrong. Passion we have, to a lesser extent than many, in my experience, but we DO have more accountants, more managers, more PR and marketing back-up than all the rest, probably put together! These people earn their enormous salaries from convincing us that the reality has not gone out of English sport. THIS is, only my opinion, the REALITY of our national team sports..all of them. 'They' are all busy making money and cocooning themselves within structures that keep their careers going, but the sport? Less passionate, except when the anthem is playing (!) and lacking (chronically)the NATURAL TALENT required to play at this level. I'd sooner watch a passionate losing team than a boring 'system' team like England. They didn't look like they were enjoying it at all...they looked afraid. Afraid of losing. Afraid of losing their jobs, their lifestyles, their marketing potential. How can anyone perform freely and well in such an unreal world? I fear thats what it comes down to,sadly....

  • 21.
  • At 10:03 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

Honesty really is the best policy sometimes and Ford has hit the nail on the head. Last time Clive gave the boys the full 1st class treatment because they thought they could do the business and as we all know they did. What has happened here is spin has overun, and everyone has thought...oh maybe we could do this..titter ye neh! NOT A CHANCE.

Fine we won Four years ago, but it doesn't stop there, a true world champion can defend his crown and carry on at somewhere around that level. If we continue to moan and groan about 93 it will become to rugby lovers like 66 to the footballers. There is enough people in the RFU and clubs around with grass roots development to really start building. It may not even be 2011. Lets get consistency, style and some basics right, i think most rugby lovers would want a team to win that actually deserves it!

  • 22.
  • At 10:20 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • James wrote:

What on earth was Mike Ford thinking? Undermining his own teams individual talent. Yeah they lost badly and talking nonsense doesn't help('this team believes we can put up a fight and spring some suprises' etc...). Why do they do these interviews at all? I can understand injury talk etc... but some of this interviewing stuff seems a bit much.

  • 23.
  • At 10:26 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • rugbylegend wrote:

Personally, I think Mike Ford is right. He has said what has needed to be said to bring all these over-inflated opinions of England being brilliant down a bit. I agree completely with the comment about limiting the amount of foreign players in teams. In Wales, you are allowed 7 "foreigners" in your entire squad. 13 foreigners made up Northampton's starting XV last year. England have some quality players, but they refuse to play in a way that would suit them. For the remainder of this World Cup, being how long England are in it for, they should go to playing 10-man rugby.

1. Freshwater
2. Regan
3. Stevens
4. Sheridan (too tall to be a prop)
5. Borthwick
6. Moody
7. Rees
8. Easter

9. Gomersall
10. Barkley
11. Sackey
12. Wilko/Catty
13. Tait
14. Cueto
15. Lewsey

Comments anyone?

  • 24.
  • At 10:37 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Bryn Palmer wrote:

Thanks for all your comments. To pick up on a few points raised...

R Baker - I do originate from over the Severn Bridge, but not that far down the M4! I think my enthusiasm on this occasion stems from actually hearing a coach being brutally honest about a team's shortcomings. It makes a refreshing change from the usual 'must learn our lessons, take the positives' drivel. You may have seen Ford's comments about Andy Farrell too, which I also found surprising. Not that they weren't pertinent, just that a coach should come out and say so at this stage of a World Cup campaign.

As Chris alludes to, what affect will it have on the players when they read the coach does not rate them particularly highly? Or is

cY - My point about Ashton's policy was what position HE sees as their best one. Most fans as far I'm aware, and most journalists think Lewsey's best position is full-back, and yet Ashton sees him as a wing.
Likewise he thought Cueto would make a good full-back, whereas most fans think he should stay on the wing. And having said during the Six Nations he no longer saw Corry as a number eight, and that lock would be his position at international level, he has since returned him to the back row, albeit at blind-sde flanker. So I think we're agreed on that!

  • 25.
  • At 10:39 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

Regarding foreign players - how many English ones do we have playing - we have a lot of clubs. Meanwile there are only 4/5 Super 14 clubs for each SH country. Australia actually has a rule that only players eligible for Australia can play in their super 14's teams, but they also don`t select overseas players. Their base is therefore about 80-90 players at top level. It is just that these players only play 13-15 games in super 14 and it is all agianst top opposition.
Maybe the answer for us is less games, and the ones we do have against better opposition.
And maybe more time practising skills and less pumping iron.

  • 26.
  • At 10:40 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Jacques Malaprade wrote:

And for all the talk of SA not doing anything special, they did not even field their best team, and made lots of mistakes. It could have been worse for England.

  • 27.
  • At 10:47 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

the sprinboks was just too good for england.i hope they can beat australia because i dont like them.i think after the world cup england should get a new couch,like someone like eddie jones.he is a good couch that will get them out of this situation.they too good a team to struggle like they do now.dont be asame to be humble.good luck for the next round.there is always help at the end of the day.just look at the springboks today.they are one of the best prepared teams at the world cup.planing is important.from theo and family.

  • 28.
  • At 10:48 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:


Are you drunk bru where you watching the same game, how can you say that your forwards out played south africa, sa dominated every part of that game. bring it on next game try and bring your best team if you have one. you guys cant take loosing just face it you were second best and have been for a long time. have a another cry about it.

  • 29.
  • At 10:52 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Steve Craddock wrote:

So, rugbylegend, we should drop Sheridan, who is 'too tall to be a prop', despite winning three scrums against the feed against one of the best set of scrummaging forwards in the world? SA tried to exploit this supposed weakness in their selection and it failed. Then we should turn him back into a lock, at the expense of Shaw, one of our best players recently?

Rather be too tall than not good enough, a la Freshwater.

  • 30.
  • At 11:01 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Toby wrote:

rugbylegend you can not seriously want to change our front row after out doing the best the southern hemisphere have to offer. Sheridan is awesome, especially in the loose head position, and is probably our most likely World XV player.
What Mike Ford said is nothing short of treason. I dare any of you to go up to that squad and tell them they are not giving it their all. Mistakes have been made but we're english. We don't backstab our own we just get on doing what needs to be done. We do not go round saying stuff like that when our guys are still out there. Maybe we haven't got any world class players because he isn't coaching them. No such thing as bad students just bad teachers.
I like the idea of limiting teams to say 4 foreigners on the pitch for any one side at any time. I think this is what should be done for all our sports. The only problem with soccer is that the Premiership is slowly turning into THE global league with all these foreign owners. Ok fair enough but I'd like to keep english rugby distinctly english so we can develope it ourselves our way.
I'd also like to point out to Matt that nobody has ever 'defended' the Web Ellis trophy. And that fear you saw in them is not a fear their opposition but the fear of all that hard work being for nothing.

  • 31.
  • At 11:57 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • David wrote:

Hi from an Englishman living in NZ now. The reality is that England or any of the Six Nations are just not up with the pace these days. The Southern Hemisphere teams play a faster more exciting game (maybe tougher) style to their Northern counterparts. France maybe close but they still haven't got the measure of the SH teams. England have stood still after 2003 and that showed on Saturday (Friday in Europe).
On form Australia are the weakest of the SH teams and the suggestion is that it will be an NZ/SA final providing NZ can overcome the old foe of Australia.I don't think any of the NH teams will figure in the final.
Last word on England - back to the drawing board and build with new players and possibly a Clive Woodward type coach with new ideas and philosophies.

  • 32.
  • At 12:07 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Kevin wrote:

i have noticed that in the papers it is always we have a ''chance'' of winning and all the big mouth talks from the players. i doubt that you have heard anything from any of the southern hemisphere team. they keep a low profile and concentrate on the next match.
the south african are a all round team who have their best player in peak form( and plently back ups) and under the guidence of eddie jones they are the team to win the world cup.

  • 33.
  • At 12:23 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • anon wrote:

I'm a 'POM' now living in NZ. Talking with my NZ colleagues even they are surprised at the average performance of not only England but the other N. Hemisphere teams. Malcom Wilson is correct in his assessment of too many foreign players in not only Uk but I would add European club rugby. NZ with it's NPC and participation with Aus and SA in the Super 14, in conjunction with their domestic only selection policy; allows a great depth of players to choose from. I'm sure if asked, the English coaching team would appreciate a similar scenario! When S. Hemisphere players get to their twilight years they head up to the N. Hemisphere to play for their 'retirement kitty', thus reducing homegrown talent in top class exposure. Perhaps it's time the English RFU insist the clubs introduce salary caps for these 'imports' to discourage this practise? Another thing of interest to note is that the NZRFU contracts the players and not the clubs which also gives them a lot more influence. It is sad for me to admit this but, this year I believe it will be a S. Hemisphere team walking away with the spoils.

  • 34.
  • At 12:29 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Roughready28 wrote:

Unfortunately honesty from those in power is not something we English are used to and although Mr Fords comments were justified, pertinent and constructive I feel its a possible "mindgames" exercise.

As for the teams poor performance thus far, the management, coaching staff and players can all be held accountable but when, in reality, they have picked up the "sh***y stick" dealt them by four years of gloating and inactivity on the progression front I think we should accept the wake up call we are receiving. It was clear from day one of Ashtons preparations that this was a face saving exercise and that we would "try" to make a creditable defence of the title. However had he risked bringing more of the the up and coming youthful future of English rugby to the party he could have accepted the same criticism that Sir Clive took in 1999, whilst preparing the new breed, Flood, Geraghty, Abendanon etc for the 2011 campaign.

As for the rest of the world cup lets stop the circus and start risking our reputation with bold choices, Front row is steady enough (Vickery on the bench)Corry was reasonably effective in the 2nd row and does offer a good support runner for Shaw, this frees up the back row for youth with pace Moody, Easter and Rees, Lawrence can be an impact/steadier from the bench
With the loss of Ellis we were always struggling for a replacement Gomersall comes close, Wilkinson being back is a good thing, he's a talisman and a professional with Barkley or Flood outside he's got cover, Tait at outside, Cueto and Sackey on the wing (only until robinson is hopefully fit) Lewsey at full back.

At least if we do go down we can say we tried to compete with the most mobile players attempting to match the S.Hemis style..............

  • 35.
  • At 01:08 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Oli wrote:

Although it seems that this 'honest' appraisal is probably about 1-2 years too late, I do feel that it's not a bad thing for English rugby. Hopefully the disapointment that we all feel watching our team take a spanking, combined with this assesment from the coaches might result in some changes from the RFU.

As an Englishman living in Australia, I watch a lot of rugby league. The league competition here has an effective salary cap – resulting in the clubs nurturng young local talent, rather than buying in the finished article. I'm pretty sure it would never happen, but it would be great to see a salary cap introduced to rugby at home. I just am dreading the possibility (and likelihood) of rugby union going the way of football in England. We have got to find a way to get young English players playing for top clubs. The Super 14 clubs don't buy in talent in the same way – as a result their national sides appear to be much stronger this WC!?!

  • 36.
  • At 01:37 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Sydney Bok wrote:

This thread had me in stitches. I find it unbelievable how you English supporters just cannot accept being whitewashed by SA. It all seems to come down to how poor England was. Nothing to do then with an SA game plan that strangled the living daylights out of your lot from the first kickoff. Nope.

Oh yes and we put 50 over Samoa in a "stuttering" performance. We played poor rugby. It should have been 100. We took our foot off the gas 40 minutes in. For all the Samoan bravado they still got outmuscled.

As for the FEARED SA TIGHT FIVE - it is your media that have talked them up. Go and read the message boards where you will find regular SA posters expressing concerns over our front 3 for the last two years. SA journos have also been expressing concerns. Your front row had it over us, nobody denies that. Our best props are playing in the currie cup in SA but that is because the selectors weren't willing to chance new players this year. Still, the only other scrum that worries us is NZ.

The English rugby administration lives in cloud coockoo land. Good to see their supporters have joined them.

  • 37.
  • At 01:47 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Luke wrote:

Hi. im in pretty much total agreement with the majority of what has been said. My biggest frustration with english rugby right now and right through from the start of the andy robinson campaign has been watching the stagnation occur. i watch lots of club rugby and know that the young english players playing for their clubs are right up there with anything else in the world in terms of talent and potential with other guys their age.

the england team that played SA

of that 15, the only younger players worth getting excited about are stevens sheridan and rees.

Everyone else is just a four year older than they were 4 years ago. mark regan was 3rd/4th choice hooker 4 years ago, now at 35, hes number 1. for his whole career martin corry was a utility bak row/2nd row forward. now at 33 hes captain and leading from the front. Mike Catt was a fantastic player and an English rugby great. But now at 35/36 he is still and credit to him a good player, but well over the hill... remember back to 03 and his inclusion was a surprise then with many thinking his career was already over.

There is a team called the 'Classic All-Blacks' who recently played a series against a japanese 1st team and won. the team contained players such as carlos spencer, jonah lomu, and justin marshall.. all in their early 30s, and younger than the majority of the englishmen playing the other night. Lawrence Dallaglio is another legend, one of englands greatest but at 35 is a shadow of his former self and i cant but feel should be plying his trade in a similar manner to say justin marshall or carlos spencer, playing club rugby and in testimonials if he still feels he has the itch, but continuing his england career is just dampening his fine reputation.

and i guess people will ask, but these people have to keep playing for england because there is nobody better out there.. and this is potentially true.. but only because in the four intervening years through poor management and selection, we still have little idea over the potential of the likes of:
james simpson daniel
james forrester
chris jones
andy titterel
ugo monye
olly barkely

and thats to name the young players who were around in 03.

add to that list


as some of the players who have emerged since 03 but we have no idea what level they could be at international level.

Australia introduced barrick barnes at 10 against wales with larkham injured. his 2nd cap having only played 20 mins against a week japanese team he stood up brilliantly and played an exceptional game.

contrast this with england. in 03 we knew jamie noon wasnt a test match 13. so why o why is he still around and starting now.

my rants over.. but how about this for a team for the future.. which we should try and implement NOW.

c jones
shaw - (ino hypocritical but serious 2nd row shortage in my eyes)

simpson daniel

I must admit i am a back myself so my knowledge of young backs is more extensive, but do people not agree that that back lineup would provide spark, pace, vision and flair. and through that team we could infiltrate the likes of lamb/flood/geraghty (3 exceptional young 10s) with allen and the rest...

  • 38.
  • At 02:09 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Penrose wrote:

I started to get nervous juring the anthems, the England players looked distracted - the Springboks sang their long long anthem with pride and passion, taking energy from the crowd. The England team don't have the swagger, the inner confidence about them that they did four years ago. They haven't for a while now.

In the last world cup how many times did England go in at half time behind and come back and claw out a victory? Passion goes along way in a physical game like rugby.

The squad is full of excellent Rugby brains, so what is the reason for their seemingly unfocused approach to the game? Preperation?

I'm afraid you have to point the finger at the coaching team and their approach. It's ridiculous for any member of the organisation to throw up thier hands and complain that they don't have enough class during the middle of the most important competition in world rugby.

Shame on you Mike Ford!

  • 39.
  • At 02:52 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Philip Sutherland wrote:

Malcolm Wilson is spot on. Allowing foreign players to pick up their superannuation cheques from English clubs is plain stupid if you want to build a credibly competitive international team. English youngsters don't get a go. We are seeing the same thing in the round ball game: eg, the Premier League. Here in Australia, you don't see England players turning out in the Super-14s or the new national competition in rugger any more than someone not qualified to play for Australia gets a go in the New South Wales cricket side (although here there have been rare exceptions, eg. Vic Richards, Imran Khan). You want to play Shield cricket? You must be qualifed to play for Australia in NSW at any rate. Time for this to be addressed in England now. Otherwise the national team will continue to suffer.

  • 40.
  • At 06:02 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Gary Thompson wrote:

The Demise of English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh Rugby ( and France in the not too distant future)
Why you might say? Well it is easy – when every has been international or soon to be has been from the southern hemisphere ends up playing in the UK, what hope does English rugby have (I say English as once upon a time I played for Broughton Park and Sale FC and being English can not comment on other nations)
Broughton Park, what a place to start Rugby at the age of 10 rough, tough and hard rugby, up and down the east Lancs. Road. A breading ground of some of the best played England has ever produced. Home grown talent pouring into the larger clubs, from the smaller clubs, Englishmen with stars in their eyes to reach 1st team at 1st division clubs and possibly Lancashire, North of England and finally England.
But not any more, why bother when “Joe Southern Hemisphere” will be in your slot faster than you can say “Up and Under”. The bottom line is that the clubs don’t care about the National Team, they couldn’t give a Ruck if England ever get to the world cup ever again, as long as they are making money. I remember Sale FC winning the national championship twice on the trot, the 2nd team going a whole season not loosing a game and the North of England beating the mighty “All Blacks”.
I don’t lame the current England players or coach – what can you do when all the most valuable slots on the field at club rugby level are filled with Southern Hemisphere Players
Gary Thompson

  • 41.
  • At 06:37 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • sudsy wrote:

Attitude! That's what the England 15 lack. Good, old fashioned cockiness and attitude!

England must play like they are underdogs... even against Samoa and Tonga. Both those teams will play as if they know they can beat England. And it's England's turn to show them a bit of backside and.... ATTITUDE!

In the mind of who matters... this is the BEST ENGLAND squad there is now... So what if they lose in the quarters... let's see them show this world cup that England are here to make an impact... and show some ATTITUDE!

  • 42.
  • At 07:57 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Robin wrote:

# 41 sudsy, I think attitude and Bravado is all England have in this squad. It is not the best squad - it is the squad. #48 luke has named who should have be in the squad.
England do have world class players most of whom played Guiness premiership this weekend!
Ashton wimped out. He took grandads army of players with lengendary reputations. What next Jenkins to select Edwards and Bennett. Hadden to relieve his problems in mid field with Renwick and McGeehan.

  • 43.
  • At 08:18 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Gareth wrote:

For those calling for a ban on foreign players please remember that for any player with an EU passport that is illegal.
This poses a big issue for the UK as many of the countries that supply foreign players are either from the EU or from commonwealth countries where many of the players can trace lineage back to the UK.
Of course the clubs could adopt a policy of nurturing local players rather than buying foreign but that would need them to stop being at constant loggerheads with the unions which has been the status quo since 1995.
So to simply emulate what Australia have done with their ban on foreign players isn't possible. The problem was caused 12 years ago when the clubs went pro in Europe and the SH kept them under the control of the union.

  • 44.
  • At 08:30 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Baz wrote:

What Ford said might be true, but it's a pretty shoddy thing to say whilst England are still in the tournament. Sounds to me like the coaches getting their excuses in early ("it's the all the players' fault"), and is not likely to do a great deal for coach/player relations or for team morale.

Perhaps Ford should ask himself how a squad of professionals (whether world-class or not) can play quite so badly after three solid months of preparation. I trust that he, Ashton et al have their swords polished and ready to fall upon as soon as England are eliminated.

  • 45.
  • At 08:39 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Ash Cheyne wrote:

John Taylor( Welsh and British Lion wing forward - not guitarist with Duran Duran) said back in the 70's, "God help us if England get it right because they have such strength in depth." In 2003 his nightmare came true but since then, the RFU( bunch of old farts, I think Will Carling described them as before being sacked), have allowed private enterprise to prevail over national pride. Carling I recall was reinstated the next day when everyone realised he was right.Even as a Scotsman, I don't enjoy seeing what should be a top team get made to look like halfwits because of the structure and system they come from. It's not good for the game.

  • 46.
  • At 08:49 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • kipperchris wrote:

Not quite sure what Sydney Bok is on about - we are none of us,saying SA were lucky, just that we were poor, and a few of us, wrongly in my opinion, saying we were quite unlucky. The reason we all go on about it is because we all care so much. We English are passionate about our sport and web blogs are no different to bar chats. Let us moan to each other in our own way and if we don't give SA the praise you think they deserve, that was never the point of this particular blog, so tough!
I also think we could take a leaf out of our prima donna cousins at football's book, who have lost 2 supposedly key players through injury, have replaced them with Barry and Wright-Phillips and have started playing exciting football again. Flood, Tait and Smith all are capable of getting us of of our feet which is more than you can say for Noon and that big bloke from rugby league

  • 47.
  • At 08:57 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Daz wrote:

It's all well and good Ford placing the blame for England's poor form on a lack of world class players, but the problems the team are encountering are amateurish. Simple handling errors, poor judgment when it comes to kicking and positioning, a lack of ideas in offence and a general lack of discipline in defence which of course was the bed rock on which the previous world cup team was built. These are all issues which stem as much from the coaching staff as the players and should be worked on on the training pitch and in the players' minds - by the coaching staff.
All Ford's comments will do is drive the players' confidence even lower than it was already.

  • 48.
  • At 09:04 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • graham taylor wrote:

It's not a disaster. It's a game. Engalnd were great in 2003 and poor now. In retrospect, it's easy to say that Ashton should have taken a young side - they would have lost badly but so what. The most disappointing thing about Friday was the sheer lack of competitiveness. Engalnd are not dynamic in any phase - back play, rucks and mauls, broken play. As for foreigners in the prmiership - yes it does limit opportunities for Englah talent but to compete at the World Cup, you have to be able to get into a club side against foreign competiiton. The 2003 squad could.

  • 49.
  • At 09:13 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • simon wrote:

Typical English reaction to an utter butt kicking in every department and aspect of the game. Offering the consolatary 'yeah, SA played well but...' and then ranting about how bad you are. England were outclassed by a serious WC title contender, to analyse every aspect of the game as to why you 'threw it away' (for example, bad ref decisions, SA didn't do anything special Eng gave it to them) is verging on pathetic. 36 nil says it all. Nil, like the way that rolls off the tongue.

  • 50.
  • At 09:45 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • N Fowler wrote:

To all who want to reduce the number of foreigners, and are using the England 'soccer' Premiership as an example. The Italian Serie A has for a long long time been inundated with foreigners plying their trade, yet WC after WC they are featuring in the semi-finals or better, and they are currently the W champions!

Could it be that these SH players collecting their retirement funds are actually passing on the skills and techniques that have made them world class in the first place, who better to learn from than the best in the world. Maybe instead of paying them inflated wages to play, pay them to coach too. The light years of difference between the two Hemispheres may start to be reduced then.

Lets face it they couldn't be doing a worse job than our coaches at the moment!

  • 51.
  • At 10:06 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Andy wrote:

Friday nights fiasco was obvious from mid way through the week. We have to call upa temp sub prop, so instead of trying to inject some pace or dynamism, we call for a late 30 something. Then in the first line-out of the game we are in the saffas half and do not even try to challenge!!
Ashton has to go along with all the "experts" who selected this squad.
Men against old and tired men,
What did we expect.

  • 52.
  • At 10:13 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Rsuppards wrote:

The main feature of the Bok and AB game so far has been the mobility of the pack. They have front row forwards who are as fast as the likes of Corry (if not faster) around the field and have ball handling skills as well. On top of that there are backs who can ruck effectively at the breakdown, at least until the forwards get there.

To be fair Woody saw this trend towards interchangeable skills, or "total rugby", as being the way forward but seemed to despair at the prospect of trying to get the clubs to coach it.

It's all very well having a powerful front 5 that can push the other pack around the park, but all the opposition has to do to counter that is adopt tactics that keep them moving so that they eventually tire.

They are no use at the breakdown if they get there too late to be effective.

As a number 8, Corry makes a brilliant international lock and BA spotted that but presumably both the club and the man himself felt the need for him to revert to back row for league matches, so the effect was lost.

Other bloggers have argued about the "best position" of a number of members of the squad, but perhaps the modern game has moved on to a point where positions should be interchangeable.

Yeah, right, but not in England.

  • 53.
  • At 10:17 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Gospel wrote:

To blame the Clubs is woefully ignorant and massively disingenuous. The Clubs are producing some of the best players in Europe. The RFU have them for 3 months and turn them into mere shadows of themselves; totally lacking in form and the conviction to play their natural game amidst a team without any semblance of fluidity or cohesion. London Wasps and Leicester Tigers recently contested the European Cup Final. That's the premier Provincial, Regional and Club competition in Europe. Three of the last four sides were English. The winners Wasps fielded 13 from 15 English qualified players. Leicester almost as many again. Furthermore England have in excess of 300 elite professional players. That's more than enough to select from – it was certainly enough back in 2003. The influx of foreign stars is seemingly at the behest of lesser clubs with loftier ambitions and contrary to actually damaging the game here it adds massively to the intensity of competition week in, week out. The Club game in England has never been in better shape. The National team is a disgrace. Look to the RFU for the reasons why.

  • 54.
  • At 10:21 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Tony D wrote:

Right. Firstly well done SA, you did to us what we've been doing to you for the last 6 years.
Secondly Mike Ford should tell us who picked the England Squad to play in the world cup - I seem to recall he and Brian Ashton were involved. Thirdly perhaps he should tell us who told the England players the way to play on Friday - is there someone else involved in the background that we know nothing of?
And stop picking Martin Corry, he is not the best lock or No 8 or No 6 in England - I can run faster than him after 20 pints of Stowford Press!

Just play the best players in their best positions Lewsey at full back, Cueto on the wing, Hipkiss for Noon (replace with JSD for bench)leave the tight five alone, play worsley, moody and easter (rees on bench) - And prepare the players properly for the next two games - Stop messing about with Farrel either play him as a replacement fly half (i.e start king the ball AWAY from the opposition)or get him to invent an injury and send him home - then you can replace him with a center (we've got some good ones in Gloucester who know what they're supposed to do.)

  • 55.
  • At 10:26 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Nigel Quelch wrote:

Yes England are playing well under par at the moment. But playig in a World cup is pressure enough, our 15 also have to content with Stuart Barnes's disgraceful commentary.

I was furious with his desire the put down England at every opportunity. Didn't he once wear an England shirt.

As a whole nation we need to lift our players not kick them into the soil every chance we get. As for Barnes he appears to actually enjoy England being beaten.

  • 56.
  • At 10:45 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • FuManChu wrote:

Tony D

Top comments, especially the Stowford Press bit.

Totally agree. Though Moody or Worsley are not out and out opensides, that back row has power and some pace.

  • 57.
  • At 10:48 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • pete graham wrote:

All the previous comments have the problem more or less spot on;
1 lack of confidence
2 over-training
3 too cautious approach to player selection
4 too cautious approach to tactics
5 RFU top management - particularly RA!
6 southern hemisphere international cast-offs
Only this last point is in the remit of the clubs - the rest are down to RFU.
The best thing the england RWC players could do now is stop training - it's obviously doing no good at all - and relax round a swimming pool for a few days!! Select the team suggested by other posters & play a natural game - not a Rob Andrew dictated ultra cautious "playing by numbers" game. If you are going out of the Cup, at least give it a go!
When England previously played like headless chickens - about 10 years ago? - they fired all the coaches & kept the players & within a few months there was a great improvement -this is generally what happens in soccer isn't it.
Farrell should return to RL ASAP - another of HQ's brilliant ideas?
Remenber also that until the 1980's NZ were just a team, and it was only the wholesale importation of foreign players from Samoa, Fiji, etc which brought the mythical status.

  • 58.
  • At 10:50 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Giles wrote:

10 and 12 lost us the game as they kicked so poorly it meant we had no possession in SA's halve!

Bring back Wilko or Barkley.

Pack were very good in the set pieces apart from Regans throwing in to the lineout.

In the loose we had the wrong balance. Therefore bring in Moody for Corry and Chuter for Regan. corry should have never been captain as it meant Ashton couldn't take him off!

Get Lol on the bench to bring on some big impact players.

Outside Catt I'd play Hipkiss for now, Tait's confidence is too low - better off coming on as a substitute. Massive blow losing Robinson as he is a legend and can change a game. We don't have enough "match winners", ie.. another word for World Class players. In fact without Robinson we don't have any!

tema for Samoa:




We still have no chance of doing well at this World Cup although it'd be nice to qualify and then give Australia a tough game if we can...we have a good record against them as they aren't so in your face as NZ and SA...England never seem to like that! We're too soft with a lack of experience...where ar ethe guys to slow the ball down...Hill, Dallaglio etc. SA had too good a ball..they also had all the breaks I might add and the better of most of the decisions however we still would have been trounced!

  • 59.
  • At 11:05 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Shez Sheridan wrote:

England are at there lowest point for 4 years after a zero point score against a good SA side, not playing at there best.
England showed no character, no fire, no desire, nothing. Im sure that all the players were trying, but they failed to even be able to go back to basics, when all there other flimsy plans went to the bin.
Robinson was a guiding light to them all. But one major failing of this team is that it does not have an inspiring captain and how Corry was ever captain in the first place and then got it back for the SA game, i will never undertsand, he is past his best by a long way and his best was never good enough for top class international rugby anyway.
The team for Samoa and Tonga, needs to be a fresh start and we must just play very basic rugby and get that right, before we unleash the ben kay chip and run (what was he doing, a man of that experience, just shows there wa no one on the pitch to control things)
Also Perry is awful, cant make a decision, so out of his depth.

Vickery - replace after world cup as cpt
Sheridan - show some fire in the loose
Moody - blind side, we need some pace to the breakdown
Dallagio - for 60mins, see if he has one more big game in him t inspire insipid forwards
Rees - will be a great openside when back row is sorted
Gomersall - needs experienced head at 9
Wilkinson - still the best 10 we have
Barkley - skillful and good brain
Tait - has some guile and is quick
Sackey - had poor game, but deserves another chance
Cueto - at wing if fit, he scores tries form that position you know!
Lewsey - Full back, always been his best position in my opinion

(i am assuming Robinson unfit for next 2 games)
Hipkiss. Farrell,Richards, Easter, Worseley, Regan, Freshwater.

Play with some pride even if we lose further games.

  • 60.
  • At 11:08 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • steveP wrote:

Simon ,yes it was a butt kicking and you can gloat q .But just remember until the last year or so England have had the better of most of the exchanges .Having said that SA were more clinical and executed a simple game plan efficiently and with some style.No England fan ,well not a sensible one denies that.Personally I thought for us to have any chance of competing we needed all the 50/50decisions that are so prevelant in the outcome of modern games to go our way .The fact of the matter is that they didn't ,it is not a moan just a fact and doubtless would have had little effect on the final outcome.
The fact is England were beaten by a superior side who I personally though had plenty to spare .If you want to take that as us being "Whinging Poms"then go for your life.

  • 61.
  • At 11:18 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • madbeefsheppo wrote:

We all knew that England weren't going to get anywhere in this world cup and we are being proved right as we speak.
Ashton has now got the opportunity to try out some youngsters on the biggest international stage there is. Lets face it, why not?! We aren't going to win the cup again, the public don't expect that so in a way, the pressure is off. This will be great experience for the younger players.
We have too many big name players who are way past their best, they are just too old. Remember in 2003 they were called Dads Army, and that was 4 years ago!!
Get some youth in: Flood, Hipkiss, Forrester, C Jones etc, and start preparing for the future.

  • 62.
  • At 11:22 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Baz wrote:

It seems that nothing annoys a southern hemisphere rugby supporter more than England fans admitting that we are rubbish and they are better than us. They like to propagate this myth that we are "arrogant" (as if they don't celebrate when *they* win the RWC!), and it irritates them intensely when we shoot their fox.

So what do they do? They ignore everything we say and attack us for what they *wish* we'd said...

  • 63.
  • At 11:29 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • madbeefsheppo wrote:

We all knew that England weren't going to get anywhere in this world cup and we are being proved right as we speak.
Ashton has now got the opportunity to try out some youngsters on the biggest international stage there is. Lets face it, why not?! We aren't going to win the cup again, the public don't expect that so in a way, the pressure is off. This will be great experience for the younger players.
We have too many big name players who are way past their best, they are just too old. Remember in 2003 they were called Dads Army, and that was 4 years ago!!
Get some youth in: Flood, Hipkiss, Forrester, C Jones etc, and start preparing for the future.

  • 64.
  • At 11:29 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Not Francis Baron wrote:

Firstly, to all the people that think we had the better of the south african pack or even thought we had a chance that night need to wake up.
I'm not blaming the players as Mr Ford is but am blaming the RFU and management team.
The English game has been left to rot since the success of 2003. It has been widely known throughout the country and even within the dusty corridors of HQ that change is needed. They tried to 'review' the situation some time ago, the outcome being to sack fitness and conditioning coaches...
Absolutely rediculous.!!
The team isn't performing, so sack the coaches...
The head coach kept his job (AR) but, I'm sure you are all aware, was replaced shortly after.
What should have happened was, Francis Baron should have held his hands up to the failings of the present RFU structure and stepped down to let someone who actually cares about developing the game rather than a man clearly more concerened with making money take up the job.
What happened to all the kids wearing England shirts with 'Wilkinson' on the back?
Proberbly playing 'the other' game again.
All the RFU did after the world cup was to take the cup on a relatively unpublicised tour of the country.
The RFU could have used all the success and hype to really promote the game to a 'wider' audience not slap each other on the back and discuss the new prices of the twickenham debenture..
No team has successfully defended a world cup and for us think we could was very short sighted. The game has changed vastly from the game we played in 2003 as it has changed and developed after every world cup, and this is what should have happened in the English game.
Francis Baron for the sake of English Rugby please step away from the Board.

  • 65.
  • At 11:50 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Gerkha wrote:

So after reading all of the comments on this blog, one thing that we can all agree on is that this England team is not up to much. I saddens me to the core to say it but English rugby has not been a force since the final whistle was blow in Sydney 4 years ago. Infact it has been in a meteoric decline. The past 4 years has been like watching a beloved elderly family pet taking way too long to pass away without the help of of the friend vet to put it out of it's misery. Unfortunately euthanasia came in the form of the BOKS.

Yes I know the Boks beat England 36-0, the first time England have not scored a point in 104 internationals (I think that was the number), the worst ever result for England in world cup game. But where was the England team? Where was the do or die bulldog spirit, the pride the passion. Was it me or did 14 players look like they didn't fancy a game of rugby, I say 14 as I think Jason Robinson was the only one o that team that wore the shirt with pride. A bunch of lethargic clueless Neanderthals trudging round the park trying to keep up with the boys in Green and gold. All week I have been thinking we would lose, but in a tightly fought contest, not a one sided humilation. Why was it England did step up to the mark?

Lets be honest South Africa didn't even have to play that well and they put 36 point on us. Although congrats for not allowing England to score or even get a penalty. They are a World Class team!!!

We had a hopeless coach in Andy Robinson who dragged our great rugby nation to the lowest depths it has ever been. The RFU for some reason thought every game he would make a difference and low and behold we would lose again or play badly against so called lesser teams. Couple this with the worst Captain I have had the displeasure to watch lead out a England team in Martin Corry, since his appointment as captain we have has the worst set of results that England has suffered since the game went professional. We need a leader some who can galvanise the team, someone people will look too when the backs are against the wall, a captain who will give some players a well needed kick up the backside when needed. NOT a one trick pony that is deficient in intelligent decision making, incisive ideas, leadership or skill. Just because he is captain of Leicester does not instantly make him the new Martin Johnston.

We instead have a side bereft of ideas, lacking skill, speed, wit, intelligence, passion, pride, attacking options. England seem to only play one way. The forward bully the opposition into submission and we the score some break away tries. The score line always looks better because Wilkinson kicks 90% of our points. Unfortunately our forwards don't bully the oppostion anymore and we have been without Johnny's kicking boots for most of the past 4 years... Surely there is another kicker in the country that has the most registered proffessional rugby players in the world?

This team has nothing left. Brian Ashton, although a great coach, can't lift this group of players, he hasn't had enough time to introduce his way of playing. When everything goes wrong we resort to the old way of play. Forwards hold on to the ball way too long and the backs never see the light of day. The ball at the rucks is woefully slow. I went hoarse screaming at the scrum half to get the ball and swing it wide, or at least pick the bloody thing up and make a break. Even when the back do get the ball the seem to not know how to use it. There's no penetration, breaking the gain line, no intelligent lines of running, they suddenly lose the power of running in a straight line, they all stand so flat that no one is running to it with speed. GOD!!!! what a shambles. We cannot play old style rugby anymore.

To finish off, Mike Ford. Is it that his tactics aren't working? Or are the players not following them out on the pitch?

Are his comments an attempt to get his players rowled up and to respond to them by proving him wrong on the pitch. Or is it some veiled attempt to pass the buck over his own inadequacies as a coach and put the blame on the players. I don't know

Either way I hope England bow out of the world cup with the realisation that things have to change. The way we play, train, prepare. The philosophy of how to play the game. Alas I am sick and tired of English sport, be it Rugby, Cricket or football thinking just because we invented the sport that we should be good it. Other countries have taken these sports and made it their own. NZ, Australia, Brazil. Let us take a leaf out of their book...

  • 66.
  • At 12:04 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • kipperchris wrote:

To 'not francis bacon', exactly how many of the 64 messages posted before yours said we had the better of SA? Other than that i agree with what you say. The management must take responsibility for what is going on. The players are better than that (apart from Noon, Perry and Farrell)and have been let down by poor planning and selection. Oh, and before the SA fans start bleating again about us making excuses, we're not - we are simply trying to work out what has gone wrong, because believe you me, you might have deserved the win but you arn't as good as you think you are.

  • 67.
  • At 12:13 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

To Simon # 50

England were poor last week and were put to the sword by a South African side missing three key players through injury/suspension. That said South Africa did not play as well as they can. They played to a very conservative but effective game plan putting the ball deep into England territory and waiting for England to make mistakes. Sadly they did not have to wait very long.

England were outclassed in some areas but not all. The front five out muscled South Africa in the Scrums and the line outs were fairly even. In the loose, however, there was only one team on the park.

There were some poor refereeing decisions but you get those in every match and many are only noticable due to the close scrutiny of TV. It is probably true to say that early on England did not get the rub of the green but things evened themselves out over the whole match.

Finally I can't wait to see the All Blacks beat South Africa playing the kind of 15-man total rugby that only they can play. Kiwis are normally modest in victory and generous in defeat. It might stop the arrogant gloating of some South African Supporters to see their side well beaten. If the cap fits, Simon, wear it!

  • 68.
  • At 12:16 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • David wrote:

It's about time that someone in the England camp faced reality and did so publicly. I just hope that RFU will do the same, but suspect they won't. The domestic game is going the way of football, but in many respects it is worse as we can at least put some world class players out wearing 3 lions rather than a rose. I couldn't quite believe it against the USA when I gave up, turned over and watched a passionate and quite clinical England football performance because the rugby was just too depressing.

The Premiership, the fixture madness, the number of games and the disjointed mess that is English rugby is destroying the game and the pool of talent. That coupled with the RFU's dismal handling of the national team, the hopeless mistake that was Robinson and inability to see what is blindingly obvious means that not only will England be humbled in the World Cup, but probably, yet again, in the Six Nations and in any competitive fixture for the forseeable future.

It pains me to say it, but I just hope that either (or preferably both) Samoa and Tonga give us a shooing in the next 2 games as I think that is the only thing that might force some action.

I don't blame Ashton, I think he's done the best he could have done in the circumstances, with the pool of 'talent' available and given the number of injuries. But we need a serious review of the entire game at club, european and international level. As things stand, it would be impressive if England could rebuild sufficiently to prepare a team that might play tolerably well and make it to the quarters in 2011. Anyone that thinks we can rebuild this mess and hope to challenge for anything in 4 years is a fool. It took Woodward 7 years and some great players - at the moment we have some players who were great some time ago and some mediocre players, nothing else.

  • 69.
  • At 12:17 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Ashton's use of players has been poor at this world cup. When Tait came on for Robinson, Lewsey should have gone to full back so Tait could play on the wing. At least he'd played wing before for Newcastle and in contrast to Ashton's ideas, Lewsey with Robinson is our most experienced and reliable full back. Much as I dislike Gomarasal, in order to patch a sinking ship, I would play him because of his experience with Jonny outside him (I disagree that he is not a World Class player anymore!!)and Barkley at 12 where he frequently plays. This would at least give tactical kicking options against Samoa and Tonga. Hipkiss at 13 would give some go forward with Cueto in his correct positon at 14, Lewsey at 15. Maybe Sackey deserves another shot at 11.
The most enbarrassing thing about this whole saga is that it looks to the world that England don't have any good players, because we don't show any faith in our youngsters and we pick size over skill. South Africa played Stein and Australia played Barnes. Where is our most talented youngster, Cipriani? Sitting at home watching on telly. England's best performance this year was when they beat France using Flood, Geraghty and Haskell and none of these are at the World Cup. What's worse is that Wasps have won 2 European cups in the last 4 years with teams predominantly full of Englishman and yet the national team fails. The system needs a complete overhaul. It's pathetic!!

I was at Twickenham on Saturday (London double header), not only was the Friday night game woeful, the state of the pitch at "HQ" was very very poor.

What on earth is going on in English rugby?

I think its time to start to ask BIG questions of the RFU, we pay a high price for replica shirts and the like, as well as for matches and get a useless team and rubbish pitch for our money - why? I would not accept this elsewhere in my life so why should I here>>

  • 71.
  • At 12:21 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • John Carling wrote:

It’s about time England are told some home truths about their performance. Moral is very low at the moment and so it should be. At least go out and play with some passion, you have nothing to lose.

What preparations have been made since we won the world cup in 2003, what support have the clubs had from the RFU, what has happened to the management??

I remember a very young England Captain telling the press the English RFU was represented by a bunch of old f**ts, how true he was then.

The root of the problem is with the RFU and the relationship with the English clubs, if we don’t get this right, we will not succeed,…ever!

It’s painful to watch our side at the moment, we want them to do well, however, they don’t have the ammunition.

I think it’s too late for this world cup, so lets go home and build for the next one.

What will England do in the 6 Nations??

  • 72.
  • At 12:24 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • AMJ wrote:

Unlike most comments here, and those of the expert commentators, I don't think England played badly on Friday night, it was an average sort of performance, nothing great, nothing to bad. Just what we have seen over the last three years.

I would make a few comments about the developement of the England squad. All fly-halfs in England have known that when Wilkinson declares himself fit he puts on the number 10 shirt, even if he has only one leg. All centres knew when Farrell signed on the dotted line he would be in the RWC squad, to much money paid out. When his palls in the media started to sing Dallaglio's tune (after one good game all season) back rowers knew he would be in the squad.

This is no way to develope the national team

  • 73.
  • At 12:33 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Sean wrote:

There are two, maybe three games left for England if they are lucky in the 2007 RWC, and it is now that Brian Ashton and his coaching staff should be thinking about RWC 2011, it might be 4 years away but we don't want to be in this same position then. These last few games will be a great opportunity for some of the younger players to play in a high pressurised world cup. Who will stand up and be counted, who can think clearly under pressure, and who are the future leaders on the pitch? Clearly some of them are lacking basic skills, are they the best in England? If that is the case start to day, drill them and drill again, even after the world cup, the coached must go out to the clubs. There are three years of so called friendlies and 6 Nations, to ensure this disaster, won't happen again.

  • 74.
  • At 12:34 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • andrew allman wrote:

I coach a U11 team and the boys were laughing at how bad England were when we met on Sunday. A particular target was Ben Kay and his chip kick. In contrast they were drooling at South Africa. They still love rugby, they just recognise England have stopped playing it.

Is it any coincidence that one of our worst ever international performance came on the same weekend as the Guiness Premiership kicked off again. How can we even consider playing the premiership when the world cup is on. Not even the money mad barons of the football premiership play a league whilst the football world cup is on.

To rub salt in the wound, when the world cup is finished, every single scrum half, fly half and flanker in the premiership will be antipideon who will play in our league and take our money until the next world cup.

We desperately need a national game structure that puts our England team at the top of the pyramid. This to me would include:

- appoint foreign coach and give him remit to imrpove team to next world cup. Do not set next 6N as holy grail but focus on player development. I would suggest Nick Mallet.
- limit international tours so that nonsensical thrashing of young players stops. What is the point of another tour from hell.
- desperately seek peace between preiership and RFU, focus should be on England success
- as in cricket, elite 25 -30 players contracted to RFU not clubs. In short term focus of these contract should be exciting young player not old has beens
- limited number of foreign players in premiership (6!!). Focus on quality not quantity in foreign players. I do not mind Mauger coming, he will teach youngster something. I do object to Munster third team scrum half playing for leicester
- insist on 5 player per team coming from teams academy. We need to encourage young players.
- limit number of games per season for all players
- resurect regional games v touring teams. We need step up in class from club
- somehow encourage development and focus on basic skills so that we can begin to match southern hemisphere clubs

I believe action is needed very quickly and that many other people feel the same way. How about a day of action when we boycott the Premiership or an England game and show them that English fans have had enough.

  • 75.
  • At 12:41 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • andrew allman wrote:

There is a rule in mini rugby that if a team is ahead by more than 50 points, the ref should stop the game or try to even the teams up.

In anticipation of any of the home nations playing the New Zealanders or Australia, may i ask that this rule is introduced into senior rugby asap.

In all seriousness, I think a game should stop if a team gets above 80 points.

  • 76.
  • At 12:57 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Jonny42 wrote:

I think one of the highlights of this world cup is the way the so called lesser nations have stepped up to the mark and been competitive against the more established sides. The money and coaching support the IRB has put into these countries has clearly allowed them all to make massive improvements in their games. Its amazing what you can do with time to work on conditioning and defensive organisation.

Even pluckly little England on Friday night didn't give up against their vastly superior opponents. Great to see the outclassed underdog still refusing to give up even when so obviously beaten. Personally I think it would be a great shame if the number of teams were reduced to 16 at the next world cup and countries like England weren't allowed to take part and show this fighting spirit !

  • 77.
  • At 01:05 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • DDD wrote:

i can see why the last few years have happend from robinsons point of view to a point tho, b4 the world cup we had a world class first 22. and we all thought that our strength in depth was very good aswell, we have the like of moody and hodgeson young players who every1 thought they would become world class players, i remember when before the last world cup we sent our second 15 to france and put them up against the thier first 15, we only lost by a few points and we had players like cueto and noon coming through who every1 thought was exellent, and mr woodward left them out. we all wondered why, untill now. now we see what he saw in them. and people like ollie smith who in my opinion is the most unluky man in the uk. he was 19 when he was first called up, he sould have at least 20-30 caps by now. they got there selection for the future wrong even b4 the world cup. didnt give them enough chance o show what they have got. and now we are paying for it. i beleive aston will retire within the next year and some1 else like dean richards will take over and he will gut the side and start again. i think the major loss in last year about all else was the loss of harry ellis. i think he is the spark we all think is needed. he was the best 9 in the 6 nations by a long shot and if he carrys on lke that i beleive he has the potential to be world class. i also beleive tait and hipkiss still have it in them to be the best there young guys and make supposidly'older and wiser ' i just think they need the chance and people to put confidence in them not constantly have a go. in the future id this would be my team.

1.sheridan(best prop we got atm)
2.chuter(plays better then regan and is alot younger)
3.stevens(mobile and good in the loose, well potentially anyway)
4.croft(brilliant youngster, as quick as a back and good hands)
5.kay (good line out operator been the best forward i think)

9. ellis
10. wilko/lamb(lamb be the back up until wilko is too old)
11. strettle(got the potentical to be next robinson)
12.ollie smith
14.lewsey(best defence in the backs and i think best player we have had in the last 4 years)
15.abendanon( best timing support iv seen in a england shirt potetial to be class)

of course this is my opinion and it probably wont be anythink like this but i hope the coaches know the best way forward because if they dont, i cant see us being any good in the near future.

  • 78.
  • At 01:11 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Spencer wrote:

And so it comes to pass that the obvious happens. It isn’t like we haven’t been banging on about it for a couple of years now. The England management have been hamstrung by “conventional wisdom” that is out of date. Is it my imagination or was Mike Ford part of the selection process?

Forwards win matches – Still true but not in the way the England management seem to think they do. Whilst it is obvious you must be able to compete at the set piece i.e. lineout and scrum, they are not the be all and end all of the game. There’s no point in picking a powerful but glacial pack that win the odd scrum. England still seem to be taking this as a positive for the SA game. Why? What did it give us? Nothing.

The breakdown is everything. The ability to produce quick ball and steal opposition ball are central to the modern game. England are appalling in this area. An agile quick pack who achieve parity or near parity is preferable to a pack that wins scrums. Haskell, Lund, Palmer and Andy Hazell were all passed over in order that the likes of Dallaglio, Kay, Corry and Worsley could be accommodated. So not only do we have no options on the field we have nothing from the bench either.

Defences win matches – Again true, but not to the extent that your defensive coach makes idiotic statements like this and is allowed to remain in his post

“Sometimes it is better if you don't have the ball and for the opposition to have it, because it is harder to attack in rugby union.”

Eh? Seriously I wonder if the All Blacks would prefer to have the ball or not? Could explain England’s obsession with kicking it away I guess.

It has been clear to me for sometime that much of England’s play is constrained by the need to adopt a rigid defensive formation. Players are not free to move to optimum attacking positions for fear of being out of alignment in defence. Similarly no English player trusts himself to run with the ball (except the magnificent Robinson) as they are terrified that the may get turned over.

Here’s more from the genius that is Mike Ford

"It becomes a game of turnovers, about keeping your discipline, kicking your penalties, keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
"When you are up against the top sides in the world, that is the game. There won't be many tries on Friday night.

What does he mean by many? South Africa scored three against us, if I recall rightly none off turnover ball. It could have been five or six. How many did we score again? Oh yeah, that’s right, none.

England were the team penalised and punished by the boot. Shall I tell you why I think that is? Because penalties come from pressure. Pressure is applied by being a genuine attacking threat. How many kickable pens did the Boks give away? None? Why? Because they had no need to. England offered nothing of any threat apart from Robinson. The Boks didn’t have to contest the ball particularly hard as it had normally been sorted out far before the rest of our back row arrived.

All in all English rugby is now sticking to a formula that was becoming of date in 2003 but is now akin to going to war with spears. We must change or we will continue to be humiliated. Perhaps it is too much to expect highly paid professionals to feel pride in the shirt and passion for the nation, but when Georgia who have 300 players and 13 pitches in their entire country can challenge the likes of Ireland, we should be demanding more from our representatives.

  • 79.
  • At 01:20 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • anders wrote:

If Australia can take their most rubbish team in years to a World Cup final in 2003, who is to say England can't do the same for 2007?

  • 80.
  • At 01:37 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Because Australia are generally better.

  • 81.
  • At 01:44 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • BT wrote:

When the two sides emerged onto the pitch, one looked like an elite team of young eager rugby players, the other looked like a group of tired men. I do not understand why over the last four years we have stayed with the same players (just in different positions), when there is talent available which with some nurturing, could make us once again a team to be reckoned with.

I think we need to get the basics sorted, not only on the field but in the way that the game is taught, and in the manner that new talent is found and helped to progress.

I believe that Wilko would be best nurturing our new talent. I don’t believe he will ever be back to what he was, and I don’t see why we should expect him to be. But with someone like that to look up to and work with, I believe that we could have another ten of him within the next few years.

It was a pleasure to watch the Boks, but like others have said, they didn't really have to try very hard.

  • 82.
  • At 01:50 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • penalty_try wrote:

When England get to the quarter final, we will meet Australia with a fit Wilkinson, and some others back. Any WC game between England & Aus is going to be a tough affair. And of course, we all know what happened the last time that happened!

  • 83.
  • At 01:57 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Greg Chew wrote:

It seems that the very arguments that filled the pages of 606 are being rehashed and examined with new ferocity as blame for the woeful mess that is England rugby is sought to be squared in one place or another. Let’s start with some facts:
1. South Africa (NZ the same when we have played them of late) were superior to such an extent that I do not think any of the improvements in the game set up, administration or so on would, between the last RWC and this one, have enabled more than a slightly less embarrassing result.
2. The honesty of Mike Ford is not traitorous as some have suggested. It is a man who calls a spade a spade, only in this example, he is properly referring to what one might use a spade to clean up for what it is. If only more in the English game had been so honest before now, we might even have breached the Bok line once in the match.
3. The only restrictions in the English Premiership that can legally be placed on the nationality of constituent members of teams are that they must be EU nationals.
4. The clubs have poured vast sums of money into the development of the professional game in England. They did so because unlike the Southern Hemisphere Unions, our Union did not grasp the rose by the thorns and set a professional structure in place right from the beginning. The commitment of time, effort and capital by the club owners cannot be punished because we do not like what happens down the line as regards the national side.
5. Relegation - the arch producer of negative rugby is the need NOT TO LOSE. The issue of relegation is another that has been vigorously debated in 606 and largely I think without conclusion in that both sides have reached a stalemate. If we are to keep to the old club and league structure, clearly relegation is a crucial aspect. Clearly it also breathes life into the tail of the table. Is there a middle ground?
5. Too many games. This is a little vexing because it is a double edged sword. Yes, there are too many club games, but similarly, there are too many internationals.
If you take these points as valid statements rather than points of argument, as least for purposes of the arguments that follow, what are we left with? Well, clearly the entire English and indeed European game needs to be radically rethought. Previously I have argued that perhaps there is room for 3 non EU players in a squad. I now think the number is zero. This is not of case of not appreciating the many SH players that have not just graced our game but also contributed healthily to it, I just think that the time for that contribution has passed. We must now mature into a rugby nation that at least attempts to lead the way rather than refashion to our own purposes what the SH teams do. Ok, so a raft of highly skilled players leave the European scene and for perhaps as many as 5/6 years, we suffer for it in terms of entertainment. But just think how many more home grown players will get game time, add to their experience and in short, be given every chance to rise to their potential? How many 20 year old Kiwis of good potential are held back from playing by a 31 year old Brit? This is not a bandage for 2011; this is penicillin for every RWC thereafter and the wider health of the game in this part of the world.
On to the "too many games" "tired players" argument. Allow me to address those games that are not needed either to boost club coffers, create a proper league format or have any bearing on the relegation issue. The EDF Cup games in a sentence. Total waste of resources, playing calendar and without a redeeming feature. Previously, people have said these games give youngsters a chance, but if we are only giving youngsters a chance in a side show competition, clearly there is a serious problem in the development process that should instead be targeted at the entire club set up, not just the EDF Cup and that means grasping the non EU players issue by the horns. The EDF cup must go. It is an irrelevance that is paid for by the longer term health of the game.
Ok, heres is where it can get complicated: how to better structure the season? What number of games is the most that can be played in a non RWC season at both domestic, European & International levels? Where does relegation come into this? What about club interests?
To my mind, the answers are clear, but I would love to see some reasoned debate on the issues. First off, assuming the EDF Cup goes, we have domestic league, European and International games. I think the domestic league needs to take a look at American football and in order to accommodate the top 4 1st Division teams who in any case are head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the table (the one dropped and the three ambitious ones), we produce two "conferences" to borrow from the NFL of 8 with the teams in each randomly picked each year, home and away fixtures. That means 14 games. Top two from each play in a semi final and final to decide who is the Champion. Assuming that we are to go down this route, the relegation issue solves itself - the top 4 teams from the 1st division who are the most ambitious will be in a fully professional league. All other divisions become compulsorily amateur or semi-pro. The likes of Roslyn Park, London Welsh, London Scottish etc. can get back to being what they used to be - important parts of their local community that serve as a bedrock of rugby from whence late bloomers can be plucked having had the game time they needed to come to the fore.
Europe has other issues. First up is the fact that the Celtic nations do not qualify for it. Either it is made simple and the top 6 teams qualify or Ireland, Wales and Scotland each place two teams in the competition. Anything else is unfair on England and France who each get 4 places, all earned. Two further places awarded to the best Celtic team bar the top 6 from the Magner's League and one Italian side. Thus, a 16 team European Cup with 4 pools, home and away. That is 6 games in the pools, 1 quarter, 1 semi, 1 final. 9 games total. International games - two in winter, 5 in 6N, two in Summer tour, 9 games total. Total number of matches that can possibly be played in one year: 34. Acceptable I think? One more thing, there need be no fixture congestion in this way and in fact there is room for a 4 week Christmas break 4 weeks of National squad training in the summer and better still, 10 week of total break from rugby assuming that fixtures and breaks fall sequentially.
The second European issue is who is entered for the 4 places available to England (assuming the above rationalisation of the ERC goes through)? Two alternatives
1. The RFU enters 4 teams made up entirely of English qualified players and pays 50% of all proceeds to clubs on the basis of player contribution. In simple terms, the recognition of the power of incentive in the capitalist system. The clubs have a carrot to develop English players and do well financially as a result.
2. The top 4 teams play, top 2 from each conference. If this is to be the case, the younger branches of club academies are scrapped and replaced with national academies and again, we look to the NFL and introduce a "draft" system so weaker teams can pick up better young talent or trade. The Club academies take them on from U21 stage, not U16.
Simple isn't it? Only it isn't because I have no doubt that 99% of those who took the time to read this find fault somewhere in what I have set out. Fine. I just hope that the response you have similarly takes a holistic view of the game in England and indeed Europe. The solution is not to nurture the dying tree in hope of an occasional revival. It is to wholesale transplant the tree into a new field with more fertile soil. Until we do, the likes of 33-0 to the Boks will become the norm and to win or even be competitive will be despite the system, not because of it.

  • 84.
  • At 02:05 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Stew Hartley wrote:

The most disappointing element of Friday night was that England never turned up. Even the smallest of nations who have played in this RWC have turned up and given it their best. As fans and players ourselves we all want to hit the changing room after a game knowing we tried and on Friday night, only Robbo had the bravery to take the game on and boy did he try...and try...and try!

The streets of Paris were lined with South Africans who were as embarassed as we were on Friday night. What a shame!

Lets write off this RWC (as we should have done two years ago) and start from scratch. Bring in the youngters, give them the arena they need and let them loose.

Rob Andrew - You need to get scouts at every game in the top four leagues, see who the kids are, and pay for their Rugby education. Get the National 1 & 2 teams to blood these guys and them start bringing them through the system. How many subsidised kids could we have got for Farrell's silver? Then lets look at the foreign converts to Union like Gloucester's 'Volcano' and go about talking these guys into playing for England!

The End. Time to get it moving Club England!!

  • 85.
  • At 02:24 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Daniel J wrote:

Absolutely Pathetic.

Just watched a clip on bbc with Brian Ashton kicking the ball to himself while his players where off in the distance training. seemed more annoyed he couldnt get a 360 with the ball on his finger than by england actually improving. And you wonder why your national side is garbage

  • 86.
  • At 02:26 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • drew wrote:

To all commentaries - don't waste your breath! In fact I've been dabbling in voodoo for the past number of years and got all my England dummies ready for the game - I'm a SA fan. I fixed the match and made England squeal big time. I took great delight when I pushed the pin into my Jason Robinson prototype. I mean did you see that!! Ok, lets see now, the next game ...

  • 87.
  • At 04:23 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Manny (Ire) wrote:

Interesting that England won the world cup with a group of players whose talents were nurtured in the ammeter era. Surly the presence of so many foreign players in the premiership, many of whom have been put out to pasture by their home unions has a detrimental impact on the development of young English players. Also how many players born in the Pacific Islands are playing for New Zeeland?

  • 88.
  • At 05:29 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Brizzle Boy wrote:

I agree hugely in principal with what Greg Chew and Stew Hartley have written, now really is the time to sit back and look at the whole English/ European system..and pick the best ideas of the rest..and maybe go a little more extreme..why don't the RFU stick they're hands in their pockets and contract out the top 100 English players make 4 teams to compete in the HC and the Magners League, so like the SH teams in the super 14's you have 7 or 8 people in the full squad playing together each week..letting the GP sides muck around with the EDF. Totally agree get the Non EU's down to zero..And why not for the grace of god in this day and age don't align our season to the southern Hemisphere and play our rugby at the top level in the summer ..same as our 13-man code friends. There's no reason with todays technology that the pitches can't be maintained, and it will make the spectators experience far more pleasurable..and the clubs more profitable..
C'mon guys lets shake it up!

  • 89.
  • At 06:06 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Brizzle Boy wrote:

I agree hugely in principal with what Greg Chew and Stew Hartley have written, now really is the time to sit back and look at the whole English/ European system..and pick the best ideas of the rest..and maybe go a little more extreme..why don't the RFU stick they're hands in their pockets and contract out the top 100 English players make 4 teams to compete in the HC and the Magners League, so like the SH teams in the super 14's you have 7 or 8 people in the full squad playing together each week..letting the GP sides muck around with the EDF. Totally agree get the Non EU's down to zero..And why not for the grace of god in this day and age don't align our season to the southern Hemisphere and play our rugby at the top level in the summer ..same as our 13-man code friends. There's no reason with todays technology that the pitches can't be maintained, and it will make the spectators experience far more pleasurable..and the clubs more profitable..
C'mon guys lets shake it up!

  • 90.
  • At 07:33 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • NP wrote:

If I see one more post making the point that England have wasted the four years since 2003 I think I will scream. It is true, but can't we just take that as read by now?

I'm also getting a bit annoyed by posts which have already writen off this World Cup. I don't rate England's chances, but it is still a World Cup dammit. There will be a WHOLE FOUR YEARS to speculate about the next one, so can we just concentrate on the matter in hand.

  • 91.
  • At 10:38 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Apple wrote:

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah....... wait ........ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha aha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah!!

Go bokke!!! yeah you like that dont you. Why dont you just start supporting the springboks, you know you want to.

  • 92.
  • At 10:58 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Norrie wrote:

What England seem to have missed is that the game has moved on from 2003.Crash and bash from the big lads is no longer a winning formula. The top teams are all about space and pace. Get to contact areas quickly in numbers then get the ball away and wide to give the speed merchants a chance to spread the defence. As long as the Toby's of this world take hope from winning a couple of loose-heads England and their fans will be having a long wait between drinks.

  • 93.
  • At 01:40 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Owen Budd wrote:

What rubbish, “ we haven’t got the players!” We just need some team spirit and determination. Remember Greece’s 2004 UEFA European Football Championship! No great players – just a great team.

Remember Wales recent grand slam! Enough said. Stop complaining England and start Performing.

  • 94.
  • At 06:13 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Robert Richardson wrote:

Toby Flood called up for the England squad. Great! Given the current woes besetting the England team, the irony of showing a photo of him wearing his Newcastle shirt emblazoned with their sponsor's name - Northern Rock - put a wry smile on my face.

  • 95.
  • At 07:51 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Karl wrote:

I don't think the influx of S Hemisphere players into the premiership is the cause of our poor national side. All the clubs have strongly contested development sides from their academies and the presence of ex kiwis for instance can only enhance their development and mentoring in their early careers.

Martin Corry looks dead on his feet and he is not the only one. I fear the problem lays in the RFUs desire for money not the clubs. Our top players are playing far too many games in a season. Drop the Anglo Welsh Cup for starters and against the very grain of RFU 'wallet filling' mentality drop the play offs in the domestic season. If you want a show down why not look at football fort he example of a pre season show down between the previous seasons trophy winners.

The squad was knackered before we started the warm up games aginst Wales and France. For once I would like to see the guys have a Summer off to rest and regain strength as it appears all but a few are carrying the 'niggling' injuries that run the risk of shortening their careers and weakening any team we put out.

RFU PLEASE PLEASE listen to Hopley and his crew and for once think of player burn out not your bank balence and perhaps in time you will get the money spinning success hungry England of 4 years ago.

  • 96.
  • At 12:49 PM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

Have to agree with the idea of english rugby being riddled with public school players.

It's well known that young players at u16 u18 & u20 by and large get selected for international honours based on what school they went to, rather than ability. This select group then get the best coaching via EPDG and more recently the schools of rugby at club level.

England have more junior rugby players playing than New Zealand Australia, and SA combined... so what happens. Well most talated kids from comps get hacked off at the injustice and go and play soccer or give up completly. The result is England lose quality rank and file individuals!! I don't believe a young SA or NZ boy is any better or worse than an English lad, it'just they don't filter on public schools.

  • 97.
  • At 02:41 PM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • ian wrote:

Re comment 96: Dave you are 100% correct! Of course there is some talent at public schools but only the fools that run this magnificent sport beleive there can be none elsewhere what is happening is a scandal !!

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