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England exposed as France are reborn

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Tom Fordyce | 13:26 UK time, Saturday, 8 October 2011

Eden Park, Auckland

No heroic escapades this time, no backs-to-wall brilliance nor ground-out glory, no third World Cup final on the bounce.

After spluttering sporadically for four games, England's Kiwi campaign ended as it probably deserved to: in defeat, to a team that was more dynamic, more clinical and far more composed when it mattered most.

The 19-12 scoreline might give future generations the impression of a close-fought game that England could have won. Those watching know different.

This was supposed to be the usual nerve-jangler, another cross-Channel classic to join the legendary English victories of Parc des Princes 1991, Sydney 2003 and Marseille 2007.

Instead it fell flat long before the end, France's blue army camped around the Eden Park stands celebrating with a deafening, gleeful confidence that England's late two-try rally could never shake.


(left-right) Chris Ashton, Lewis Moody, Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi of England look dejected after their quarter-final defeat against France. PHOTO: Getty

What was most disappointing to the thousands wearing white inside the stadium and the millions more watching from on sofas and under duvets back home was that Martin Johnson's men were so culpable in their own downfall.

In a first half that saw them ship 16 unanswered points that with better kicking could have been 23, they missed tackles, coughed up ball and threw away possession like a side unfamiliar with both each other and the more basic tenets of top-flight rugby.

In the build-up to the game there had been much talk of piling into a supposedly wobbly France in the first 20 minutes, stamping boot on Gallic throat and never taking it off.

Instead, those breakfasting back in Blighty were served the unpalatable sight of a team in reverse, trampled by a blue-shirted assault that had the game by the scruff of the neck with the bacon sandwiches barely digested.

Jonny Wilkinson has so often been the scourge of France in big contests that the sight of him lining up to take a penalty used to silence the Stade de France crowd. Not any more.

This was a miserable way for what will in all probability be his final World Cup match, a re-start going straight into touch, poorly-aimed passes doing the same, trudging off just after the hour to delighted jeers from the same French fans who once feared him so much.

Johnson proclaimed himself happy with the decision to stick with Wilkinson at 10 - "I thought Jonny and Toby (Flood) worked for us" - but there were problems everywhere you looked.

Matt Stevens once again struggled at loose-head, shipping two penalties in quick succession. Louis Deacon gave away another daft one, while a defensive line that had conceded just one try in the tournament so far missed 10 tackles in the first 40 minutes alone.

When France went wide in that key first quarter they found weak shoulders and gaping holes. When English chances came they were tossed away, to the tune of 12 handling errors over a misfiring 80 minutes.

That England's sole threat appeared to come from 20-year-old Manu Tuilagi, in the first big showdown of his international career, said as much for the paucity of other options as his own impressive impact.

Johnson never looks particularly happy. Even when blowing out the candles on his own birthday cake he probably looks daggers at the icing. But the manner of this defeat left him shaking his head with barely-disguised distress.

"These are great opportunities to get somewhere special, and we didn't take it," he said.

"It was a game where we came off and felt it was winnable. The guys were very confident at half-time that they could fight their way back into the game. But the story of our night was that those mistakes killed our momentum.

"It's brutal. But then World Cups are."

Where does this leave Johnson's England?


 France's team dominated proceedings right from the start against England in their quarter-final encounter. PHOTO: Getty

A year ago they were taking apart Australia with one of the best displays anyone at Twickenham could remember. Four games into their Six Nations campaign they were unbeaten and on course for a possible Grand Slam.

Since then they have not just stagnated but seemingly regressed. The walloping of the Wallabies now seems like a trick of the memory, a performance from a different era.

When England beat Wales in Cardiff last February it made it eight defeats on the bounce for Warren Gatland's men. The two sides appeared to be heading on different trajectories. But it is Wales who are heading towards the heavens when it matters most, and England who have slipped away.

"The performances have been fine," Johnson insisted stubbornly. " We got into the quarter-finals without losing a game. We created more chances to score than France did, but they took theirs and they took them early."

Did Johnson select the right team and ask them to play the right way? He thinks so. "There's not one thing we'd change - there's nothing glaring where you think, wow, I wish we did that."

Conservative and controlling can work. It did for Johnson as a player. But it requires discipline, and strong minds, and an ability to perform under pressure.

If the horse bolts, it's no good having a solid stable door left behind it. Johnson's insistence on a forwards-led gameplan meant that, once France had such a big lead, they were going to be very hard to catch.

When England needed to find some magic to find their way back in, they had just two backs on the replacement bench. One was a scrum-half, the other a battering-ram rather than conjuror.

"I believe this team's best days are ahead of it," said Johnson. "A lot of them are at their first World Cup, and will be better for the experience."

Of his own future - and regardless of his stirring deeds as skipper, it will now become an issue - he was guarded. "Now's not the time. We'll see. We'll give it a few days and see how we go."

France deserve great credit for their own unlikely renaissance. A week ago they were being thumped by Tonga and looked shot. On Sunday they will wake up with a World Cup semi-final to look forward to.

For England there will only be a long flight home and the horrible feeling that their World Cup will be remembered as much for the tabloid headlines that haunted them as anything they produced on the pitch.

If you win, all the other stuff gets forgotten. If you don't, it will get thrown at you again and

Did a night out in Queenstown and a borrowed walkie-talkie really contribute anything to their defeat on Saturday night?

No. There was a far more basic sporting truth at work, hard though it may be to confront: they simply weren't good enough to go any further.


Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    Oh God, I live in France. They deserved to win. England simply hadn't improved from the pool phase.

  • Comment number 2.

    so was that a choke? If it was NZ you would've claimed so....

  • Comment number 3.

    Good blog, Tom. The sound of chickens coming home to roost is deafening. Unsettled centre pairing resulted in a last minute gamble - it didnt work too badly, but JW has been off form and didn't really justify his place today. The back row was outshone by a superb French unit - Moody looked like a stand-in by comparison and wasn't perhaps as test-match fit as he needed to be. Easter played very well, but is a known quantity. Stevens doesn't look test-match fit at the scrums, and Thompson had a pretty bad day. Not enough game awareness or leadership on the pitch. Same old, same old. Where oh where was Flutey?

    And the French were very good (maybe not good enough for the Welsh, but it will be close).

    Johnson did a fair job but he problem of giving the top job to someone without direct experience was evident in the stop-start way he developed this current squad.

    England have the core of a good new team - Corbisiero, Cole, Lawes, Croft, Flood, Tuilagi, Foden, Armitage and Ashton, so there is hope for 2015.

  • Comment number 4.

    Doris, the northern hemisphere teams are all quite equal and able to beat each other with no one dominant so I would hardly call it a choke. Choking is when a clearly superior team fail to turn up.

  • Comment number 5.

    Johnson wouldn't change a thing. How about Shaw, Lawes & Haskell starting. Tom Wood for Lewis Moody. It seems everybody apart from Johnson knew that Stevens would give away penalties. Flood and Wilkinson just didn't work.

    Time to build for 2015 I think, thanks for the service of but new blood is needed.

  • Comment number 6.

    The writing was on the wall, the players never appeared focussed on the job from the day they arrived, unprofessional conduct in the media spot light, a procession of mindless comments from players about things being blown out of proportion.....they just didn't seem to understand where they were. A total mess off the field.

    Agree the reality is they weren't good enough on the field, but they could have done better if they had any kind of focus.....miserable performance by England traditions, and by England's resources.

  • Comment number 7.

    This was a game when the writing seemed to be on the wall from the first few minutes. I could hardly beleive my eyes when England had a perfect opportunity to attack, a line out 5 metres from the French line. From the England throw in Nallet jumped up and took the ball for the French and from then on we had very little of the ball. Tom, its hard to take issue with a lot of what you wrote being losers, but perhaps its also good to talk about how well the French played? Especially in that first half? Nallet in the second row, immense. Haranordichy at 8. Dusatoir, fantastic The tricky fiery pairing of Yachvilli and Parra, Medard, Rougerie. But the crucial thing was that France had the ball and were going forward, that takes the pressure from the backs and gives them space to run in and thats what they did. Rougerie especially had a fantastic game, and the French tackled better and won the ball at the breakdown better. I agree that England this time did not deserve the victory, but I would agree with Jonno that the Wilkinson, Flood pairing worked OK. We just could not find the way to build pressure on the French in the second half when we had the cahance to come back into it. In the end you have say, well done to the French for an outstanding display of fighting rugby. Hard luck and well tried England in the second half. But if you want to pinpoint the reasons for failure then look at the forward battle, the breakdown, the line out, the driving that France did, the offensive tackling and there you will find the answers. Unfortunately in the first half the England pack could not match it.

  • Comment number 8.

    Many will recall that Paul Ackford, Rugby Correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph was a Police Officer. Each year he "earned" a pay rise subject to a satisfactory performance. His predictions two weeks ago? England to reach the final;Wales to fail to go beyond the group stage. I hope he is not expecting a pay rise this year!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Unfortunately too many England players thought they were superstars before they were really tested. Ashton and Young were all over the place in defence and both need a reality check when it comes to the crunch. There was an obvious lack of team understanding which comes from some thinking they're better than they are and failing to appreciate that the game depends on the team operating as a unit. The off-field antics and internal retributions cannot have failed to have had an affect. Even when France looked lost in the group stage they knuckled down and fought for each other to win with flare and stength. The Charriot looked a poor second to the Juggernaut.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Two more general points for the RFU to sort out perhaps after this RWC, but important for the overall future of the sport as an enjoyable spectacle
    1. The current serious injury rate in rugby is far too high and this applies over the last few years, and though occasionally you see concerns about it nothing really seems to have been done to address the issue. Andrew Sheridan was a serious loss to England this time round, Carter the all blacks; how many matches was JW off between 2003-2011; BO'D spear tackle, absence of Moody, Scottish guy with serious neck injury and I am sure the examples go on. I think the Lions tours take nearly three teams worth of players for a ridiculously small number of matches, and the main reason seems to be the injury risk. It is supposed to be a sport - you don't want to reduce the intensity of the competition (its a man's sport etc etc) but it needs balanced - hence look at it calmly after the RWC.
    2. Refereeing issues. The issue of "perceived bias" raised by the Tongan chap is correct. So Nigel Owens should not have been refereeing a match in Wales' pool, nor - another example - Wayne Barnes in England's group. In no way did today's ref mean that eng lost (have to congratulate the French on a deserved win in proper sporting spirit) but he does have history with England from 2003 so perhaps he should not have been put in a position of "perceived bias". I agree with him (the Tongan chap) there wasn't in addition "actual" bias though there were clear mistakes - eg Welsh goal that wasn't against SA, and the offside charge down by Argentina of Scotland's drop goal - without which might Scotland have been in the QF? So to avoid the mistakes the RFU should maybe look at more officials (eg offside line judges as well as line judges) and more use of technology - would have avoided both the drop goal issues, and the speed at which an error can be detected is easily shown by the TV commentaries - also don't put the officials in the position where they could be accused of bias - its not supportive of their position, nor fair to them in anyway.

  • Comment number 12.

    @Doris #2

    I see where you're coming from, Doris, but in fact a choke comes after an expectation of a win - there's actually a level of respect there to say that you were good enough and expected to win - but you choked. England's performances right back to 2003 have done nothing to show that we've been good enough (apart from the odd performance). It would be nice if this were a choke - unfortunately it's probably just England getting knocked out a a level that is pretty much deserved based on current performances.

    I think we can say on balance that we're just a little better than Argentina who in their turn are better than Scotland & Italy. We're not up to Ireland's level who are some way behind the Welsh.

    Even when the Welsh have been winning over the past few years I haven't really rated them - they've always seemed a bit fragile. Now, though, I have to say that I'm really impressed - they look strong and fit and skillful in attack and defence and with the boot. I'd put France on a par with Ireland and I'm thinking that Wales can go all the way. I never thought I'd hear myself saying this but after today's performance I shall be supporting Wales to win the cup.

    Yaki Da!

  • Comment number 13.

    Other recent England managers got the sack for poor performances. The 2010 six nations were not great, 2011 six nations vs Ireland was not great, this world cup was not great.

    Is Johnson immune to this sacking culture?

  • Comment number 14.


    by Tom Fordyce, Thursday, 6 October 2011

    An old yarn about Ian Botham has been much in mind as one soaks up the atmosphere in town during the final few days before England's World Cup quarter-final battle with France.

    Something similar seems to be happening with the England rugby team here in New Zealand.

    A succession of uninspired, ugly performances so far in this World Cup should have the locals sniggering their socks off, dismissing both England's ponderous style and their chances of winning back the William Webb-Ellis trophy they claimed over the Tasman eight years ago.

    Instead, the exact opposite is happening.

    "Classic England," one wise judge told me. "They're so, so good at knockout rugby. They're doing it to perfection again."

    "It's just the same as 2003 and 2007," said another, "so impressive. I guarantee they will make the final."

    In this strange and paranoid parallel universe, England's very failure to get out of second gear is seen as clear evidence that they are in fact roaring along in fifth. By winning in such narrow, nerve-wracking fashion against Argentina and Scotland, they seem to have proved their cup-winning credentials far better than if they had breezed through with a truckload of tries.

    What England have promised is a blitz from the blocks on Saturday night, an opening as dynamic and aggressive as the first quarter against Scotland was feeble.

    There are other encouraging omens, if you know where to look.

    England have reached this stage of the competition having conceded just a solitary try, a more parsimonious record than any of the other quarter-finalists.

    As Easter pointed out, they are unbeaten, and no team has ever gone on to win a World Cup having lost a pool game. And - if you don't mind stretching things a little - they haven't lost a World Cup knockout game to a northern hemisphere side in 24 years.

    Then there is 2007. At the same point four years ago England looked doomed - battered 36-0 by South Africa, drawn against a rampaging Wallabies in a quarter-final no-one could see them winning.

    And we all know what happened next.


  • Comment number 15.

    Is it me or did England seem to be lacking in the fitness department? Can't think of any other reason as to why we were so slow at getting to the breakdowns and rucking like a schoolboy team. Massively disappointed and more so that Johnson can't accept his failings, wrong squad selection, wrong team selection and wrong tactics throughout the campaign. And all that adds up to one early flight home.

  • Comment number 16.

    Memo to RFU. This is now a professional game. That is how you justify the massive ticket prices at Twickenham and 90 quid for an England shirt (I wonder what the sale price on those black atrocities will be now!). So, may I humbly remind you that promoting a person who, despite his legendary status in the game, was an amateur coach (no not even that; a beginner) to one of the most prestigious posts in the game, qualifies as a massive roll of the dice at best and extreme folly at worst.

    Take a deep breath, say "good job" to Martin, pay him a nice severance and FIND A PROFESSIONAL! They are out there and itching to get their hands on the job. Give a real, professional team a chance to build a squad, to fill our gaping holes (centre, scrum half, open side flanker etc.) and be ready in time for the one we have to perform at in 2015. England cricket did it and so can you if you take your heads out of your collective wassname.

  • Comment number 17.

    Sorry to say that as an England supporter having watched the excellent Wales Ireland match first it was difficult to imaging ANY of the England squad making it into either the Welsh or Irish squads. Not sure where our talent is going because somewhere between our excellent U20s squad and the full International side they take a step backwards. Hate to say it but MJ must take a lot of the blame

  • Comment number 18.

    surely a choke?;-) massive favs to win and look what happened, now all the "experts" who picked england to win comfortably will look silly and all those who expected and picked england to win but said be weary of france(just to cover thier backs) will claim some sort of morale victory for themselves saying i told you so

  • Comment number 19.

    Contrary to Tom Fordyce's opinion, this was a game England could have won, if they could have eliminated the handling errors and kept the penalty count down when France were in kicking range. Having said that, I agree that we seem to have regressed since that fantastic win over Australia last year. Time for Johnson to fall on his sword and for an experienced coach to be appointed to build a team for 2015. There is some great young talent already in the squad, and more to come - but this really has to be the time that the 'old guard', including Wilkinson, Tindall, Moody and Thompson step down.

  • Comment number 20.

    I cannot see Johnson being sacked, or resigning. He will want to build a new team for 2015, and The Blazers, having assassinated Ashton, are unlikely change tack now. They've had enough problems of their own recently, and I am sure that is where a lot of the problems ultimately lie.

    @2 Doris - certainly NOT a choke, but actually a performance in line with recent form: disjointed, sloppy and muddled. A better organised team could have beaten France in the 2nd half by a whisker, but they didn't deserve to.

    Also, forgot to mention Wood in my earlier post as a name for the future. And in addition to 'where was Flutey?', where was Fourie?

  • Comment number 21.

    Pianoshifter, I'd agree that I can't see Johnson going but I can see some of the coaches going. I was quite surprised that Johnson said he wouldn't have done anything differently but then again I suppose he was just publically saying that while thinking why on earth didn't a pick an inside centre?!

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm sorry but what were the RFU was thinking when they employed Johnson. To coach an international team you have to have a certain amount of experience in coaching club rugby.

  • Comment number 23.

    Don't think the JW and Flood experiment worked. Though that's probably because JW just wasn't playing well, and hasn't been since the start of the competition. I felt England looked a lot better when Flood moved to FH. Hape must have felt pretty grim - even with Tindall out, he didn't get a look in. I can't help feeling that we'd have had a better defence with Hape at 12 and a better attack with Flood at 10. Using JW at the end of matches to hold the score was a good ploy, but honestly once he lost his kicking boots he shouldn't have been on the field of play.

    I also feel that MJ has gone for a style that just doesn't suit the current team. The forwards aren't good enough to control games like of old. We weren't solid at the scrum, we weren't so good at line outs and we are completely incapable of pick and go. You can't build a forward orientated game around that.

    Finally, rugby isn't just about agression, but actually doing something with ball in hand. We hit the French really hard with some massive hits, but they dusted themselves down and came back running. I wonder whether we weren't a bit to focused on smashing them out of their stride in the first half.

    Living in France, the return to work on Monday will not be much fun...

  • Comment number 24.

    It was a team without captain who could stay on for 80mins, without a no 7, without a good centre pair (manu is good but did not have a partner) and who were undecided at who should play 10
    Surprised at the result..........No

  • Comment number 25.

    Great blog about a GREAT PLAYER who is larger than life; however some of the comments here are rather disingenuous.
    He is not a coach he was appointed a manager and if Mr Johnson wants to be coach then he should do his licence and certificate as those who have come before him and try his hand a coaching at club level ( to paraphrase him in an article he wrote he should go and make his bones as a coach at Sutton and Epsom), He maybe a no nonsense person but ever since the Robinson debacle the RFU have been playing with fire right from the beginning when removing an England coach adding a director (Rob Andrew) and a manager and messing with the coaching system.
    The fact that slowly he has become the coach annoys me considerably as the home unions have been pushing for qualified coaches for years and suddenly they appoint someone with NO managerial or coaching experience at the top of the tree tells volumes about the state of English Rugby. I have personally spoken to coach in the National leagues who have never been happy about someone appointed who was not qualified and others not even given the decency of an interview.
    He maybe a great coach in the future but Mr Johnson will need to decide what he wants to be: a “manager” or a coach.
    Sobering lesson today for the committeemen of the RFU

    @16 I agree they need to get a professional coach and dispense with Mr Johnson the experiment with the beginner is over...

  • Comment number 26.

    Should Australia have sacked Deans after their Ireland loss!? Come on, perspective people. Tonga beating France was the best thing that could have happened for them. The media talking up England's chances of a victory over the French didn't help either. Complacency all over the park, they left their playing minds in the locker rooms!

    Same thing that happened to Australia. Could of, should of, usually can, but on the day weren't up to the task. ENG players didn't know where to go with the ball. Like a school kid getting up infront of the class to read a speech, he'd rehearsed it a thousand times beforehand.. but on the day, forgot the words.

  • Comment number 27.

    I can't say we should be surprised that after stuttering through the pool stages, England should find their impediment ridiculed by the French. I do not think the services of Lionel Logue could have helped them!

    After the Scotland game, it was clear to those with eyes to see that the front row was provided no platform and leaked penalties largely due to the ineffectiveness of Matt Stevens. The half back pairing was woeful, with Youngs too slow and indecisive and Wilkinson off form with his kicking and game management. With the system not working, Martin Johnson was stubbornly late making changes from the bench, but at least when he did ring the changes in the last 10–15 minutes, it transformed the match. At least Johnson will have learned a valuable lesson. So we thought.

    I read the teamsheet for the game against France with incredulity. Stevens, Youngs and Wilkinson all start. Surely, after another dire display, and trudging off at half time 16–0 down, the usual half-time riot-act tirade would be accompanied by changes, especially since most of England's form forwards were on the bench. But no, the same miserable bunch trudged back on for the second half. When changes were made (even though again they stabilised the pack), they were made late and were often forced on Johnson.

    This myopic loyalty to out of form players beggars belief, and calls seriously into question Johnson's judgment. There was no leadership on or off the field to adapt to what was actually unfolding during the game. Lewis Moody is not a leader, and his game has been low key. Haskell should have started.

    The lack of passion or energy, the fumbles, the hesitation are a mystery, but each of the players looked like they had no confidence in those around them and uncertain of their own role. Easily the most impressive England player was Tuilagi, but even where he was successful in crossing the gain line time and again meant he was starving Ashton of any ball.

    Johnson's post match reaction – I would not do anything different – is a disappointment. Not doing anything different has seen England regress over the last 12 months and go crashing ingominiously out of the RWC, with no passion, no progress, no style and no friends.

  • Comment number 28.

    Why does an England defeat get more headlines than a fantastic welsh victory? I bet whatever Wales do the papers and media will still be going on about england going out. Can't we have a blog about the Wales Ireland game?

  • Comment number 29.

    Clive Woodward stayed after 1999 and won in 2003, Johno should stay after today and will win in 2015. I say that with confidence. Our best players of recent times have been: Wood, Croft, Lawes, Haskell, Flood, Youngs, Tuilangi, Ashton and Foden. Of these only Flood has more than 2 seasons of international rugby under his belt, and even then he's only had a decent run in the team for about the same time. Haskell will have time to develop into a world class 8, Wood will make himself a first name down type of player, Deacon will get smart, Lawes experience. If we have found a consistent 12 (fluety was awful in 2010, and didn't impress in the warm ups, THAT'S why Johno didn't take him, and I agree - too much of risk with him finding form) and a natural leader, by 2015 we'll go in with a grand slam and world number 1 ranking, a la 2003 (give or take). The only teams where the future looks bright from where I am are England and Wales in the NH, with Wales possibly brighter short term.

  • Comment number 30.

    Was at the Auckland Viaduct for the game. Plenty of French fans celebrating, English (and Irish) fans commiserating.

    Eng tried running the ball wide. That's where they failed. Their player personnel not geared for that style of game. Wrong tactics for a side clearly lacking the fitness needed to play an expansive game at pace. They should have stuck with grinding it out. That's where they are at their best.

    Watched delayed telecast of Wales-Ire match. Welsh playing brilliantly. Form team of the WC so far - well above SA, Aust and even NZ who are so underdone because of lack of hard competition. Wales now definite contenders to make it to the final.

  • Comment number 31.

    I had a feeling this would happen - two teams that hadn't turned up in the World cup contesting a dour game. One had to finally appear and suprise, suprise, it was France. England bought nothing to this WC (apart form Tabloid fodder) and have left with nothing.

    The more I think about it, the more the victory over Australia was probably a bit of a fluke. England haven't really progressed at all under Johnson. Giving away pens, silly mistakes and panicking has been the norm since the last WC

    The RFU got it wrong making Johnson Manager IMO - a great player but with no coaching experience (he should have gone off and learned the ropes at Club level). How Jake White, a WC winning manager, was not selected ahead of Johnson after 2003 has always been beyond me.

    The wrong team went out today,(Flood and WIlko both selected - crazy) but I don't think Johnno ever knew what his best team was or how they should play. It all sounds very familiar.

    I agrees, there is a decent core but I always felt Johnosn was to close to certain players like Wikinson, Tindall - both past it now. I think a new man will come in, hopefully someone who can break form the past and set England on a new path for 2015. The dead wood needs to go - We just look tired, jaded and predicatble and have done so for far too long.

  • Comment number 32.

    off topic but has it been announced where next world cup is?

  • Comment number 33.

    29: You make a good point of the players that have played well for Johnson. Any idea then why he left so many of them out?

    As for Flutey surely an out of form 12 is still better than a 10?

  • Comment number 34.

    Two more general points for the RFU to sort out perhaps after this RWC, but important for the overall future of the sport as an enjoyable spectacle
    1. The current serious injury rate in rugby is far too high and this applies over the last few years, and though occasionally you see concerns about it nothing really seems to have been done to address the issue. Andrew Sheridan was a serious loss to England this time round, Carter the all blacks; how many matches was JW off between 2003-2011; BO'D spear tackle, absence of Moody, Scottish guy with serious neck injury and I am sure the examples go on. I think the Lions tours take nearly three teams worth of players for a ridiculously small number of matches, and the main reason seems to be the injury risk. It is supposed to be a sport - you don't want to reduce the intensity of the competition (its a man's sport etc etc) but it needs balanced - hence look at it calmly after the RWC.
    2. Refereeing issues. The issue of "perceived bias" raised by the Tongan chap is correct. So Nigel Owens should not have been refereeing a match in Wales' pool, nor - another example - Wayne Barnes in England's group. In no way did today's ref mean that eng lost (have to congratulate the French on a deserved win in proper sporting spirit) but he does have history with England from 2003 so perhaps he should not have been put in a position of "perceived bias". I agree with him (the Tongan chap) there wasn't in addition "actual" bias though there were clear mistakes - eg Welsh goal that wasn't against SA, and the offside charge down by Argentina of Scotland's drop goal - without which might Scotland have been in the QF? So to avoid the mistakes the RFU should maybe look at more officials (eg offside line judges as well as line judges) and more use of technology - would have avoided both the drop goal issues, and the speed at which an error can be detected is easily shown by the TV commentaries - also don't put the officials in the position where they could be accused of bias - its not supportive of their position, nor fair to them in anyway.

    i think you'll find that its the IRB that administer the game worldwide and not the RFU. Also the guy who complained about Nigel Owens was Samoan.

  • Comment number 35.

    Rather surprised(though pleasantly!) how sane and balanced the discussion has been

    Overall the consensus seems to be that England played ok...but no more and France were rather good..which seems about right

    I just wonder where all the 'backwoodsmen' are from a few weeks ago..who after the England/Argentina and Wales/SA games were droning on about how anyone would prefer an ugly win to a narrow/'heroic' defeat...?

    With a few false dawns the main problem with the English team for some time has been
    (i)A lack of discipline(the penalty count throughout the World Cup campaign has been far too high)
    (ii)A lack of fluency/dynamism in linking play throughout the side

    Perhaps those with more of an 'insiders' knowledge of domestic RU can tell me whether these are issues generally for domestic rugby, or whether those in charge of the national team have a lot to answer for?

  • Comment number 36.

    England didn't choke, because they never really got going, except for one duck shoot against Romania. Scotland and Argentina outplayed them, but to their credit they did enough to win.

    If anything, England slid out of this, much like Scotland did.

    I think Johnson has made rookie errors, and will need to be replaced. Of course he probably won't be. I think he'll be a terrific rugby coach for England one day, and I believe Robinson's time will come again as well, but not yet.

    Shontayne Hape and Tuilagi should have been the midfield.

    Tindall is done, Wilko despite being one of my favourite players of all time, is also done.

    Trying to play Flood and Wilkinson together smacks of round peg, square hole and an immature avoidance of a difficult decision.

    Lievremont is doing the same with Parra and Yachvili.

    Wales vs New Zealand final.

  • Comment number 37.

    @32 the next WC is in England

  • Comment number 38.

    Very poor from England. The ill discipline and penalty count was always going to hurt us the further we got into the competition, playing against better teams.
    Good luck to Wales. What a great opportunity to reach a world cup final. France were good today but are there for the taking.

  • Comment number 39.

    @ 28

    Good about it BBC?

  • Comment number 40.

    Here's a comment on the Wales match hogynhwlffordd. Brilliant! Am very jealous, and couldn't see England in current state of mind / form beating Wales. Some amazing players there - Philipps was brilliant. I just hope you have Roberts fit for the semis. Wales look fit, structured, confident and hungry. No qualms about dropping ageing heroes like S Jones and Henson from Gatland and co...

    Maybe you'll get your blog after the semis?

  • Comment number 41.

    Well dine to France. The better team. Just like
    The Wales v Ireland match - England had much of the ball
    In the first half but didn't come away with points.
    Frankly, seeing Matt Stevens fumble around at loose head
    Was the rugby equivalent of seeing Ashley Cole play at right back.
    Painfully misplaced. Bi surprise that the scrum let England down.
    The lineout really was a surprise though!

  • Comment number 42.

    re 34 - fair enough - substitute Samoa and IRB, but the issues are unchanged - for the IRB to sort out then!

  • Comment number 43.

    @33, yes, when Flood has experience at 12, and has played much better than any other 12 or 10 since 2007

  • Comment number 44.

    That's that then. There can be no what ifs, no burying of English heads in the sand and absolutely no excuses for England's exit. The fact of the matter is for 65 of the first 70 minutes France were, easily, the better side, only for the last 10 did we start to look threatening. And even then...Flood looking for miracle offloads, poor kicking from hand from all of England's kickers, handling error after handling error in the French 22, no defensive organisation, and a squad thinner than paper on creativity all contributed to our World Cup exit. To put it bluntly: we simply weren't good enough; today or any other day this WC. 

    I hope that this will kickstart a rebirth of English rugby. A clear out of players who, when in their prime delivered us everything, are now past their best, and an introduction to the new blood that our national team desperately needs. 

    So thank you Johnny, Lewis, Steve, Mike, Simon and the rest; truly. It's been great. Now though, let's look to the future!

  • Comment number 45.

    Being half French half English its always difficult any contest between England and France so I try to be objective and neutral with my views.Any rugby coach worth his/her weight in salt in the world will tell you there is no instruction book to refer to when playing France,I would imagine it must be like when playing Brazil in football so England didn't do a choker they were just not fully prepared for the way the French play rugby that we all love to see especially in the first half so don't be hard on England.One of my cousins in France was a semi-professional player now retired and my teenage son once asked him as he played rugby at school "whats the secret in the way you play rugby in France and my cousin replied "we don't know thats the secret" Philippe Palmer

  • Comment number 46.

    Not a time for knee-jerk reactions or mud-slinging despite tremendous disappointment for a poor WC. Two things stand out to me; Why does the
    performance of exciting new players seem to diminish steadily as their England career progresses? Where are the leaders on the pitch?

    The reason we lost was largely down to no one holding his hand up and stamping his authority on the play - which was what Harinodquay did for the French. When no one was effectively chasing our box kicks which always gave free ball to dangerous attackers - did anyone tell Youngs to stop doing it? Our backs were denied space so did anyone decide to drive in the forwards a bit more before feeding it out?

    MJ was a man to do just that when he was a player - but its no good him being that man in his glass box. His presence will always stop any player developing into a strong leader on the pitch. I admire Lewis Moody, but no way is he an England Captain when he has a team with no leaders.

    Time for a clear out - all the management and coaching staff and many of the older players need to go. More emphasis on giving the younger players more responsibility.
    We need a bit of a revolution! Did I say no knee jerk reaction?

  • Comment number 47.

    @29 n4meless

    "Clive Woodward stayed after 1999 and won in 2003, Johno should stay after today and will win in 2015."

    I get the point but a couple of comments back. Woodward had a plan and it is likely that 1999 was a bit early for it to all come together. I'm not sure MJ does have one.

    Second, the options available as candidates for what has to be a premium job as coaches are concerned, are far greater now than hitherto due to greater training opportunities and a much higher standard in the premiership, the Celtic Regions and elsewhere. There is too much to risk from a poor performance in 2015 to hope that a man fewer formal coaching qualifications than are required as a minimum in the premiership, will figure it out in time.

  • Comment number 48.

    Considering Ireland are out too, perhaps walloping the Wallabies isn't quite the litmus test it used to be?

    At least now we can enjoy the rest of the quarters, the semis and the final properly now, without worrying what it all means for the England team or watching the papers whip up a fervour.

  • Comment number 49.

    43: Apart from a couple of games he's been the form 10 but he's not a 12 and for me it just didn't work today. It was a stop gap and a strange one given Johnsons support of Hape in that role up until the World Cup.

  • Comment number 50.

    For a start I think the blog is a little over the top. Yes France were the better side and deserved to win, but it certainly wasn't a walk in the park.

    Some of the selection decisions are beyond belief. Stevens has proved in previous games that he is not a test loosehead. His form around the pitch has also been below standard - not sure whether it is down to teh fact that he is struggling at scrum time.

    Palmer and Lawes are clearly England's best second row combination, and yet MJ persists with Deacon, a player who at international level is mediocre even on a good day. It is no coincidence that England improved from the minute he was substituted.

    Behind the scrum, Wilkinson's form has been abysmal, and yet he still clings on to the 10 shirt. While many people (me included) dislike the tactic of two physical centres, to suddenly change to playing a 2nd FH at the knockout stages smacks of a coaching staff who have no idea what the shape of the team should be. Given the form of the relative players, and the game plan England have been working to for the last 2 years, the only sane option was Flood at 10 and Hape (or even Banahan) at 12.

    The frustraing thing is that with the right selections, England could have won this game.

    It is time for a clear out - Johnson has to go, but hopefully this time dead wood amongst the coaching staff will go as well. In particular the standard of England's forward play has been in steady decline ever since Wells was brought in.

    Hopefully we will also see a proper rebuilding of the side, so the likes of Moody, Tindall and Thomson need to move aside.

  • Comment number 51.

    Johnson is an old school warrior that looks no further than the next 80 mins rugby . He seems content with the fact that we scraped through in the group only because they were wins . We all thought that the Australia match was a turning point but every game for Johnno is a one off event . You have to have a bit more vision than that as a national coach and build game by game.

    I just feel that our performances are the result of this . Johnno was a legendary player but i just think as a coach his dogged grunt does not translate . This is his first coaching job and the warrior approach comes across in his selection and style.

    I have said for 5 years now that Jim Mallinder should get the job and we should promote some intelligent quick rugby

  • Comment number 52.

    Good blog Tom. Spot on.

    Speaking as a neutral, I'm afraid England deserve nothing more than an early exit. Sweat and blood not enough. England have been, sadly, as one dimensional as their coach's expression throughout the tournament. Some nasty episodes on and off the field - Lawes' action was disgraceful against Argentina and his footballing skills were painfully exposed by posting him as a wing forward when he is pretty limited as a lock forward. Moody deserves some better team-mates. As for the discipline off the field it served to distract the whole team who treated it as a provincial third-eleven tour. This is a professional game. Every other country there knows this - even the minor nations played their socks off and handled themselves impeccably. Look, Learn and Reflect on the long way home.

  • Comment number 53.

    I cannot understand why England's forwards (those that actually do get to a ruck or maul) just stand there looking when they get there. There is no drive (if we are "winning" the ruck/maul) and no attempt to disrupt if we are "losing" it. Consequently, slow ball.

    I do not think MJ knows his selections, but the bigger problem is in the outdated coaches he is currently saddled with.

    Congratulations to France, they picked themselves up and deservedly won the match. But England is going back to the old attitude of picking players with flair, then working very hard to coach it out of them.

    Wales looked superb against the ageing Irish, I hope they keep it up and represent the NH in the Final.

  • Comment number 54.

    Its time to wipe the slate clean and start promoting some of the young talent that is being produced in the Premiership and is being held back. Would like to see Wood get more time in the team instead of Moody, speak to Sarries about giving us a 12 (they seem to have at least 3 players of international note playing in that position), look at Sale's young props to come along with a second row to partner Lawes and most importantly an SOS for a number 8.

    Think Manu has been a revelation for us and just seems to make yards for fun so as it so happens 13 was the one position no one had any certainty over before the RWC and after our tournament, its the only certain position we have set.

  • Comment number 55.

    7. pascoty wrote: the Wilkinson, Flood pairing worked OK

    No, it didn't! In the post match analysis they were commenting on how both were getting mixed up. It never worked at Newcastle either, judging by how badly the team fared even with the fabled JW in it to run the shows. I trust now, after this world cup performance, the myth that is JW can be laid to rest. I like him, and I like his distribution and overall workrate, but the best in the world he ain't. The best is laid up at home. Dallaglio today said JW has massive credit still from 2003 (words to that effect) - says it all, doesn't it?

    Ashton and Youngs are another pair of greatly over-hyped players who failed to deliver. Anybody can get on the end of a line to score a try (Ashton) but his overall game for the moment is limited and it showed again today. Against Scotland he conceded it took hm an hour to touch the ball????? How about looking for work? Oh, but of course, he waits at the end of the line...Youngs needs more time. He was lost against Scotland and similarly so today.

    Scotland showed last week where England were weak but they just didn't have the fire power of the French backs to finish them off. And the next match for England and Scotland is......each other at Murrayfield!

    11. paul wrote: ...Carrter serious injury...

    I can agree with the general point you're making but wasn't Carter in fact injured in training and it was 'just' a groin strain? That's the sort of injury that happens to anyone, athlete or the common man (I did it 3 or 4 weeks ago myself - discovered what an 'abductor' was for the first time!). Terrible timing in Dan's case, though. Completely agree about the other injuries though but how do they get prevented? Notice how defensive English fans got when Lawes was cited for his deliberate (it was!) kneeing of Ledesma which had the potential for serious injury. Tiesi's world cup ended as a direct result of - in my view - a late and reckless-with-intent tackle in the back from Lawes. Same match, same perpetrator. Until people like Lawes stop doing that injuries will continue to occur. Fans should also stop justifying such tackles too! Dangerous play is dangerous play whoever it is that does it.

  • Comment number 56.

    I also meant to add that Wilko is no 12, he is too slow. Both the tries were scored when he was in the defensive 12 position. I man not holding him culpable for both tries, the England team as a whole allowed them.

    Now is the time for the "old guard" of Moody, Shaw, Wilko, Tindell & Thomson to call a time on their international careers and let the new boys step up.

  • Comment number 57.

    At 15:12 8th Oct 2011, n4meless wrote:

    "Clive Woodward stayed after 1999 and won in 2003, Johno should stay after today and will win in 2015."

    The difference is that Sir Clive had a very clear vision for where he wanted to go with the England team, and ha dput together an outsanding coaching team including Ashton and Robinson. Johnson doesn't appar to have the same vision - he stumbled on an excellent second row pairing of Lawes and Palmer almost by accident, and then split them up to pick Deacon, who is a decent club player but woefully out of his depth at international level. You suggest Deacon will "get smart" as if he is a raw player at the start of his career - he is 31, and thankfully is unlikely to be at the next world cup.

    You are right, England have some great young talent, but they need a coach with genuine experience - MJ may have been a fantastic player and captain, but he has no track record as a coach.

  • Comment number 58.

    Plenty of comments about how good Tuilagi was - don't fret, another season with the England team and we'll coach him down to a gentle trundle

  • Comment number 59.

    It wasn't a choke. England aren't that good.

  • Comment number 60.

    One of my problems with the current England side is that since Neil Back, we haven't had a proper number 7. Who's willing to do all the dirty work on the floor? Where's our Sam Warburton, Richie McCaw or David Pocock?

  • Comment number 61.

    GYro, you wrote "Ashton and Youngs are another pair of greatly over-hyped players who failed to deliver. Anybody can get on the end of a line to score a try (Ashton) but his overall game for the moment is limited and it showed again today"

    Actually I disagree, Ashton's ability to get in the right place for that final pass is a real skill, and one that not many player have. Arguably he could have got involved more, but the fact that it took him an hour to get involved against Scotland is more a reflection of the abysmal performance of England's back row and midfield, and a lack of control from the half backs.

    Agree about Wilkinson though, throughout his career he has never been able to manage a game properly. He is good behind a dominant pack, but under pressure he can be poor. Much was made about his part in previous victories over France, without mentioning the time his game was completely dismantled by Serge Bettson.

  • Comment number 62.

    It was no surprise that England played much better when Toby Flood went to fly-half. Unfortunately, his high-risk high-reward approach make him undesirable to the English audience. Sure he makes the erratic pass or the mistimed offload every now and then, but that's probably because he doesn't have the right people running for him in the backline. Had he been from New Zealand he would have been hailed as a legend by now. But no, let's stick to Wilkinson for a few more years because he's reliable. He sure is; you can rely on him not to break the gain line.

  • Comment number 63.

    I agree with Texaspete45 on this. This world cup perforamance was poor to say the least, the atititude of some of the players just was not good enough at times you would have thought they were on a jolly not a world cup competition and they got what they deserved I'm afraid to say, all their previous games were poor performances and nothing had changed for this one. In contrast Wales appear to be desperate to be in New Zealand and the competition and are playing with purpose and passion. I only hope England will be so embarressed about this and come back stronger with a point to prove in the Six Nations, they need to come of their perches lose their arrogance and show the fans how good they are supposed be and start playing good international class rugby again.

  • Comment number 64.

    Englands most dangerous player today.... was a Samoan.. says it all really..

    And Flood is no centre... I dont rate him any higher than Cipriani... who could have played at this World Cup if he had bothered to focus on rugby over the last 2 years and not being a daft celebrity..

    And Youngs needs to up his game.. had a shocker against Scotland and should not have played today... his passing is terrible!

    Regarding the manager.. I say stick with him... he will learn from these mistakes

  • Comment number 65.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 66.

    Unsurprising but disappointing.

    With the exception of the conundrum at inside centre we have one of the best attacking back lines we have had for a while. The problem is that JOhnson just hasn't picked it.

    Youngs had a shocker against Scotland but has shown in the past that he has the ability. But Wilkinson hasn't been the same player he was in 2003 ever since. Without his history to that point he would have been nowhere near the squad let alone the team. Other than his place kicking (which is usually reliable) his game is quesitonable - tactical kicking, distance of penalties from hand are now poor, he has always struggled to get a back line moving by crabbing across or sidestepping thin air and we wonder why our 12 is consistently unable to get the game moving. Flood plays flat and passes flat to runners at pace to get over the gain line but Johnno couldn'y or wouldn;t recognise this. If Charlie Hodgson was as sound between the ears as every other aspect of his game, Jonny wouldn't have played since '03.
    Stevens was clearly struggling at loosehead and shipping pens even against Scotland, whose front row is on the good side of competent - what would have happened against Ireland or Wales?

    Pretty much the only thing MJ got right in the changes for this team (other than leaving out the worthy but pedestrian Tindall, a man who should really have been made to play in the back row when learning the game) was the selection of Easter at No 8. True Haskell has been one of our best forwards apart from his shocking control at the base of the scrum against Scotland, and Croft is a must (but why Lawes was brought on to replace Croft remains a mystery).

    Squad selection was poor - in a game now played at breakneck speed by the likes of NZ, Aus, and Wales (they seem to have caught on to this), to arrive without a proper 7 was shortsighted.

    Agree with the poster who urges a clearout of the coaching staff, especially the lamentable but seemingly untouchable Wells - when individually talented forwards fail to play as a unit you just know something is wrong. Time to say thanks to JW, Tindall, Thompson (who earned his place today but was poor), Shaw (who should have started and has been our best forward), the estimable and underrated Easter,and probably Cueto and build for the future around a core of Corbisiero, Hartley, Cole, Lawes, Palmer, Croft, Wood, Haskell, Youngs, Flood, Ashton, Tuilagi, Foden, Armitage and an inside centre.

    Not much to do, other than to thank Johnno and wish him well. In my opinion he is the finest England captain ever in any of the major team sports but he has been found wanting as manager/coach, failing to make changes when everyone could see for their own eyes what the problems were (especially true against Scotland).

  • Comment number 67.

    England's appears the same as with the football,too many foreign players in the Premiership, just about man for man the best player per position in the premiership is foreign born or does not qualify to play for England. Selections were (in my opinion) the cause of the loss v France. Corbisiero at 1, Stevens at 3, Lawes and Shaw the locks, Croft, Haskell and Easter at loose foward, England at a dead loss at 10, both Wilko (over the wall) and Flood are not the answer,Farrell seems the solution. Centres today should have been Manu and Hape, back 3 is Englands best weapons BUT hardly ever used!!!! Answer, Manu at 12 and Armitage at 13, or Barritt at 12 and Manu at 13.
    On today's performance England should clearout the old, overrated stock, and start a fresh! TODAY! I would make Jake White Head coach, Richard Cockerill the forwards coach and go and get a Kiwi to coach the backs. Someone with B*lls to tell the England forwards to get out of the backline and unleash the most potent back 3 in world rugby.

  • Comment number 68.

    A lot of international careers came to an end today: Thompson, Moody, Wilko, Deacon, Shaw (unfortunately), Easter, Cueto, Tindall (even though he didn't play). I had a feeling all week that France were due their one good performance and unfortunately it came against us. Having said that, even if we'd won, I think we'd have come unstuck against the Welsh next week anyway. We need to rebuild now, with a potential line-up as follows:
    Flood / Ford
    Johnson to stay on as manager but new coaching team underneath

  • Comment number 69.

    I would clear out all the over 30's unless there is a strong case to keep on . Clear out the coaching staff also . Its become a bit of an institution in the England camp.
    Get in Jim Mallinder and a bright new captain. We need to start a new regime . If we learnt nothing else after 2003 its that you ned a fresh start and start that new 4 year cycle asap.
    There is a decent group of about 6 or 7 that can stay on and keep some sort of continuity but lets not fall into that 2003 trap . Its a natural time for a change

  • Comment number 70.

    What was unforgiveable was the lack of passion, this has been a theme throughout MJs time which is strange given his own personality. We just didn't have any intensity and our front row once again was exposed. Simply not good enough, the sooner Woodward returns to the fold the better.

  • Comment number 71.

    re 55 - almost certainly you mean adductor.
    Actually in respect of the overall issue I don't think it matters whether the injuries are in training or in the game though you may feel one is just "bad luck" and not necessarily preventable; but notice the criticism there has been in various sports over training regimes leading to an excessive injury rate, in particular musculo-ligamentous in type - you might be suspicious here of the origins of the increase in physical size of players that has happened since the professional era - possibly anabolic in origin in some instances, and this may well be a predisposing factor to training injuries. Furthermore not all serious injuries in the field of play are due to foul play - most I suspect are completely "legal" incidents, the fouls are just the ones that get most publicity. The levels of injury involved will be a life-long issue for the players involved don't forget.

  • Comment number 72.

    The English team kept on insisting they were not ill-disciplined as though believing that if they it often enough it would be true but todays performance suggested otherwise.

    Johnno has to go for me. He failed to instill discipline into the team and made bad calls in appointing Tindall skipper and relying too heavily on a past his best Wilkinson. This team may well have scope for improvement but they will need to be better led than they were at this world cup.

  • Comment number 73.

    Re 70: the last person we need now is Woodward. He had his time. Now we need new faces in the team. Don't forget how well our Under 20s teams have been doing over the past few years. The young guys are ready to step in for 2015 when they will be in their prime.

  • Comment number 74.

    I agree with everyone so far, we need the slate wiped clean. The RFU need to take advantage of this time, but they won't, until they start sorting themselves out.

    I really don't know what will happen to Johnson, what options are available? Some of the backroom staff have to go. Brian Smith has been given years to develop England's back play and got no where. The only incisive play we see comes as a result of individual brilliance. The same for Wells as well, are pack neither gritty nor dynamic and its not like he doesn't have the talent to work with. Johnson is a leader, a motivator, a role model, so there's no reason why he should leave providing he has the correct support.

    I cannot stress enough how Smith and Wells must go.

    There is plenty of young talent in the England side, so thankyou to some truly great players but I want to see Farrell/Barritt/Twelvetrees come in for Hape/Tindall at Inside Centre. Gloucester have a heap of young talent including Charlie Sharples. Doran Jones, Wood, Robshaw, Dawidiuk, Haskell, Croft, Lawes, etc etc

    Get these guys into a fresh set up with innotive and inspiring coaches.

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    DE Redcoat, fantastic point. Get someone who knows what they are doing because they have done it before as England Manager. MJ hasn't and can't. That has been proved. Someone blogged a comparison between MJ and Clive Woodward in terms of keeping them on after failing. Woodward knew what he was doing he had done it before. MJ doesn't. If he stays then we will continue to fail. I agree about Jim Mallinder, a proven, clever, hard nosed PROFESSIONAL coach. But they won't. The RFU don't seem to care, show utter contempt for those who support England, refuse to employ the best people in case they threaten their little bit of power. AMATEURS. And that includes that waste of space Rob Andrew. Nice chap, Varsity chap. Thought we'd got away from that. I can't even contemplate going to Twickenham but wouldn't it be great if nobody turned up for the first game of 6 nations. Fat chance, so it will always continue.

    t we'd got away from that

  • Comment number 77.

    I am no rugby expert - but it seemed to me that Cole and certainly Stevens are just not good enough to play at this level. Tuilagi is about the only one with a hint of world class. The work rate of the Irish and Welsh was amazing compared to Englands

  • Comment number 78.

    To all those who say we don't have a decent 7 in England, the thing is we do, in Tom Rees. He has everything to be England captain and one of the worlds best 7s however he is just injured all the time

  • Comment number 79.

    @42 Paul

    Therea are no issues! the standard of rugby at this world cup has been great - injuries are synonymous with rugby union (what with it being a contact sport and all) - and always have been.
    As for the alleged ref bias - well that was just Samoan sour grapes - There are not enough refs about to avoid bias of some sort - as almost all refs have some previous with almost any country.
    The only issue that needs seeing to is your mental health!

  • Comment number 80.

    "the performances have been fine" says Johnson! Is he on drugs? No wonder his teams never show up in the first half if they are being told this. Bunch of prima donnas who need some old fashioned discipline. Their performances on and off the pitch brought no respect whatsoever. Worse not one pundit called this disaster before the match. To me it was all too obvious. French are dangerous when cornered and right for the taking when over confident.

  • Comment number 81.

    Harsh on England to say "The 19-12 scoreline might give future generations the impression of a close-fought game that England could have won. Those watching know different."
    England had the ball within a couple of metres of the French try line on numerous occasions only to do stupid things. If we had taken just a couple of those chances, the French would have folded.

  • Comment number 82.

    I hate to kick a team when its down. I'm Welsh, but I'm not interested in gloating because I feel very sorry for England, particularly legends such as Martin Johnson, JW and several quality players in the England team who I feel have been badly let down. I also feel equally its important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think Wales and New Zealand have moved the game on with their style of play in this tournament and Englands style of grinding out results now lloks to have had its day. Talk of Clive Woodward coming back is just silly he belongs to a bygone era. Many people were concerned that playing JW and Flood together was tactically naieve and so it proved and suggested England were aiming to strangle France upfront and with a negative kicking style. That said no -one antcipated that France would romp into a 16 point lead and that England would have nil on the scoreboard after 50 minutes. I thought the way England came back into the game with two quality tries suggested that they can play the game a better way. There's a lot of talent in England, but clearly there's something drastically wrong with at the RFU. Danny Cipriani must be called back for tghe 6 nations campaign and I hope several of the 30 plus generation step down after the 6 nations to make way for younger blood.

  • Comment number 83.

    Absolute shambles. No progress in 4 years, in fact the chariot is in reverse! As others have said: tome for MJ to resign, a complete review/overhaul of the coaching personnel, together with the old guard of players (Wilko, Moody etc) hanging up their international boots.

  • Comment number 84.

    Wales fan in peace here... watched today's game in the rose-tinted afterglow of the Ireland victory, and with an inevitable eye on who we'd get in the semi. If you'd asked me before today I'd have said France, please: a disorganised squad trying to play an open game would, I thought, suit us just fine. England OTOH would bring the local rivalry and the ability to disrupt, control and dominate, and we still don't respond well to that. But about 10 minutes of this one was enough to make me want England somehow to nick it, because with a couple of honourable exceptions (Easter, Tuilagi) they looked like a bunch of chancers who'd already gone further than they should. The game plan, such as it was, was hopelessly ill-conceived: why try to put width on the ball when (a) your strengths are in phase play, and (b) that's exactly what your opponents want you to do? And the coaching staff have to accept a lot of the blame for that.

    Likewise the selections. Wilkinson was a great player but it's very sad to see the laboured (at best) distribution, lack of pace and absence of imagination in the 2011 version. What on Earth was Flood doing at 12 other than confusing roles and creating a defensive weakness? If you want to pick a first and second five-eighth like the ABs used to, you need the all-round game to justify that, and England don't (nor, btw, do Wales when we've tried Hook in the centres). Choose your best 10 and stick with him. Stevens looked like an out-of-his-depth penalty machine again on the loosehead side (the scrum improved the moment he switched to the tight) - so why pay that price just to accommodate Dan Cole, who isn't exactly the next Jason Leonard? Haskell barely got a sniff despite being one of few forwards who've shown a bit of form. And so on: to this neutral it all smacks of either favouritism or confusion.

    Underlying all of this I'd say that England's real problem - and to an extent France's, too - is that they have too many good players and not enough great ones. How many of today's side are undroppable in the way that (say) Sean O'Brien, Adam Jones, Richie McCaw, Quade Cooper or Jaque Fourie are? Or, for that matter, the way that Johnson, Hill, Wilkinson, Greenwood and Robinson were in 2003? None, I'd say. That makes tinkering with selection too tempting, and that means the absence of shape and the inability to play instinctive and adaptable rugby that has maybe characterised the few ups and more downs of the English game since 2003.

    Sacking MJ or whatever won't in that sense change anything in the longer term. England need to commit to identifying, developing and committing to talent, and to creating a balanced and complementary side. Follow the example of the all-conquering England cricket side, who gave up the pick 'n' mix approach to selection years ago and are now seeing it pay off. And that means sticking to your guns and resisting the temptation to pick whoever has shown a bit of Premiership form or to drop someone who has a couple of bad games... My guess (and it's only a guess) is that you need someone with MJ's strength of personality to do that.

    Oh, and to nos. 12, 38, 53 and others who've wished Wales well for the rest of the campaign - da iawn, as we say in these parts. Good on you, spoken like the true fans I'm sure you are.

  • Comment number 85.

    Did Wilkinson play in the better recent England performances? Vs Australia a year ago? He was great 8-10yrs ago, but has been a liability since. Offers nothing other than popping over a few penalties, and honestly he's not that great in that dept either. He can't kick the ball very far. That is not good when your coach builds the entire game plan on working opportunities to kick at goal. How many drop goals has he missed? BTW - those are opportunities to run the ball and score tries - essentially they are turnovers. Go with Farrell. Compare the success of Saracens and Newcastle with Jonny. England have dynamic backs that are buried in a prehistoric gameplan - they need to join the rest of the world in 2011.

  • Comment number 86.

    Fair play to France they were the better side on the day. Even had England stumbled on to the semi or even the final it would not disguise the fact that Martin Johnson has either got to seriously re-evaluate things or step down. Johnson was one of the greatest players England have ever produced; but that does not mean that he is or will be a great coach.
    Whether the fact he played alongside the likes of Wilkinson, Tindall & Shaw explains wht he is at times too loyal to them at the expense of the team only he will know. His decision to pair Wilko & Flood was plain wrong. They are both specialist Fly-half he had to choose one or other; for me Flood was a must based on his form in this tournament. How Stevens could be chosen over Corbisero to start is beyond me; Stevens is better in the loose, so put him on the bench to come on & make an impact. Some of the calls he made on 2nd & back rows selections were also questionable, but these were more subjective so whilst I don't agree with them I can understand why Johnson mae them.
    But as an earlier blooger posted with Foden, Asthon, Tualagi, Flood, Simpson, Cole, Corbisero, Haskell, Lawes & Croft not to mention some of our players back home who were grossly unlucky to be overlooked the future for England COULD be good

  • Comment number 87.

    Very painful and dispiriting watching this morning, and the worst thing that struck me is how much like the England Football team this was (apologies in advance for bringing soccer into this, bear with me if you will) -

    As many people have mentioned there seems to be a lck of leadership on the pitch, players hiding from responsibility, players picked on past merit not current form, a ridiculous amount of players playing out of position, the assumption that being a great player is equal to being a great manager, a team garnering as much front page news coverage as back etc.

    And contrast that with the current England Cricket set up where there is strong leadership on and off the pitch, form players promoted to the side where possible and sent back to the counties when not in good nick (a la Bell, Bopara), and generally an extremely professional attitude that shows itself in exemplarary fitness and no adverse media coverage.

    Perhaps we could ask Andy Flower to run both teams?!

  • Comment number 88.

    #64 I dont rate him any higher than Cipriani... who could have played at this World Cup if he had bothered to focus on rugby over the last 2 years and not being a daft celebrity..

    Cipriani is the lost talent of English rugby. I think his so-called celebrity life style is overstated. However, I do think he lost focus on his rugby and embraced the limelight more after he was cold shouldered by MJ. Cipriani was a huge talent that was allowed to wither on the outback vine because MJ was not prepared to mentor a young tyro and effectively cast him out of the England circle. If only MJ had been as intolerant of his senior players who boozed and offended their way through NZ. It is hard not to conclude that if you are past it but a mate, or ordinary and dependable, you can behave with impunity or play with mediocrity and will get picked regardless, but if you are a prodigious young talent, who is out of the manager's orbit, you will never get picked except in extremis.

  • Comment number 89.

    Agree with 'Heartyfellow' 70. We look back to the 2003 England, but those were the guys who'd worked their guts out as amateurs and finally got to spend all their time playing (was going to say "on the game" but...). Accepted that many of them were in jobs that gave them plenty of time for rugby.
    But since full professionalism came in, guys are going from school to club academies and I feel, missing out on the stage of getting passionate about their sport whilst really having to make sacrifices to get there.
    The player I most admire is Neil Back, if you look at his bio, you'll understand me.

  • Comment number 90.

    As some one already posted, disappointed but not really surprised...we huffed and puffed but could not blow the french scrum down!!! The problem now is that the RFU is in such a shambolic state, nothing will probably change, when real change is needed..get rid of the coaches and bring in some of the coaches from the premiership (don't think Johnno will fall on his sword and the RFU have made their choice)..there is lots of talent about and we need to bring it on..I watch alot of premiership matches and we should not be going out of the RWC at Qtr final stage..well done to wales (pains me to say it!!), but still reckon Kiwis will get to final and whoever they meet they will beat comfortably

  • Comment number 91.

    I agree with much of what Tom says. I can't help feeling that the coach is a big part of the problem. The WC winners of 2003 were behind in each of their last 4 matches (Samoa,Wales, France and Australia) but had the leaders on the field (another area in which the Class of 2011 is sadly lacking) and the tactical nous and flexibility to adapt to the circumstances. One feels that this team plays in a straitjacket and that it is selected to play in a very regimented way. This is surprising when MJ wrote so convincingly in his book at the time of the constraints Graham Henry's tactics put on the 2001 Lions in Australia. The current situation also reminds me of the (unsuccessful) England cricket team under coach Raymond Illingworth, like MJ a fine captain (winning the Ashes down under in 1970/71), but, perhaps like MJ, a coach who could not get the best out of his players. Talented but psychologically complex players like Hick, Ramprakash and Malcolm never reached their potential under Illingworth's iron rule. For the abovementioned, perhaps we could substitute Hartley, Lawes, Armitage, Easter, Youngs, Flutey (why on earth was he not in the squad, or any other No.12 for that matter?) Foden and Ashton. So, in my view MJ has to go. The question is, who will be England Rugby's Andy Flower..?

  • Comment number 92.

    i never normally write on any form of blogs but today's match frustrated me so much that i thought i should share my views with you guys because surely i'm not alone here!

    i cannot believe the incompetence of johnson as a manager. one breakaway try against australia last autumn and everyone gets carried away and thinks that we are world beaters. his selections today i think lost england the game. in hindsight i would have started flood at 10, but that is easy to say and i have to admit i would have gone for wilko. but the point is that the 10/12 combo of JW and Flood simply doesnt work. Tuilagi has been the biggest threat in the team this world cup, and that is because he has had a big man inside him taking the ball over the gain line, allowing Manu to attack in open space. I would have gone for JW of Flood at 10 and then out in Hape at 12 with Tindall being injured.

    Next comes the forwards...arguably the in-form english forward, haskell should have been on from the start, as should courtney lawes have been. whats the point in having these guys on the bench for 60-70 mins. And next comes johnson's choice in skipper. I love moody for his gung-ho, first-man over the top attitude, but i don't understand how you can have a captain who doesn't complete the match! look at mccaw, o'driscoll et al, when would a coach take them off!

    johnson has to go. he was a fantastic player but i can't see him as a world class manager. bring in jake white and eddie jones!

  • Comment number 93.

    anyone else with me in thinking France did not play well ( besides the first 20 mins), and england were just really poor?

    france gifted penalty after penalty ..... if this was not the case i could not see how england had a chance of getting forward.

    really wish we had some french fans on here to see how they thought they played?

    realistically i think tomorrow both teams will have alot of thinking to do.

  • Comment number 94.

    Why did Clive Woodward leave after 2003. Because Rugby Union like soccer let the clubs take control. There is no point in saying lets change the manager. The truth is in rugby (both Codes) and in Soccer the club comes first. England players would rather play for their clubs than country a fact all fans know.
    When players say the play for pride its a myth. They play for their clubs and are not at all interested in playing for England. Only cricket has taken this on board. Truth is these players are paid far too much money by their clubs to even be bothered to play for England. I have given up now supporting the spoilt brats of Rugby and soccer. Waste of my time and money. England will never win a world cup again. Its the last thing English player want to be involved in. Give Englands 6Nation spot to Georgia. Its not valued by the England players after all. I can not longer watch England it is so clear by their body language its the last place they want to be. English international rugby and soccer. Its gone. Not enough players have any pride in their country to play anymore. England club first only play for your country if forced to and thats a fact.

  • Comment number 95.

    My frustrations at MJ and his management aside for a moment, I hope we are all Welshmen now. I'm off now to learn the word to Rhyfelgyrch Gwŷr Harlech.

  • Comment number 96.

    i can sum up the England failure in one word "arrogance" This team believed they were world beaters, and the media did their part by suggesting they could go all the way. it is the same rubbish we saw in 2007 where they got lucky. Thank goodness this time it was exposed.

    England need a hard coach, that takes them back to basics.

  • Comment number 97.

    Sorry to see England lose, but the best team did win on the day. When they did get some momentum at the breakdown, they looked good. Like others, I am puzzled by the selections today.
    Ashton seemed out of his depth today-too many accolades too soon? Stevens was downright stodgy, and should get fitter. I feel his inclusion was detremental to the balance of the squad, and to be honest, I don't think he deserved a place in the tournament.
    Good luck to Wales!

  • Comment number 98.

    too many egos, too many individuals, too many old guard not enough passion....not surprised by the result...AGAIN....

  • Comment number 99.

    Too many out of form players picked and a lack of leaders on the pitch, and what was Johnson thinking when bringing on a second row, Lawes, for Croft when he was injured?

    Youngs was poor in his passing which made the attack falter several times when France were on the back foot. Cant believe Haskell didnt start and even more shocked when he didnt come on when Croft was injured.

    Stevens was poor, again. And Ashton went missing when we needed him to get involved in the game.

    Should be goodbye to the old guard now and start thinking about the next World Cup.

  • Comment number 100.

    Many folk - including the coaches - have made comments about (not) getting the basics right. In the backs, as was drummed into us at school (yes, this is that elementary), these basics include (a) taking the ball at speed, and (b) not running towards the guy you're going to pass to. England have been poor in this department for a long time, not least today. It was the first comment Francois Pienaar made at half time. The French, and both the Welsh and the Irish in the previous match, showed England up in this department - and showed that it's not a Northern Hemisphere problem. Whether Wales or France wins next week, I hope that they can maintain their form - and their great spirit - in what will obviously be a North-South final.


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