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Where England went so wrong - and Wales went so right

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Tom Fordyce | 06:29 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

Auckland, North Island

Perhaps it was fitting that England's ill-fated stay in New Zealand ended with their best player throwing himself off a ferry into Auckland harbour.

Plenty of their supporters felt like doing the same after a month which began with such optimism and anticipation finished in dismal disappointment and defeat.

If the headlines should write themselves - Manu Overboard seems as good a place to start as any - the jokes were almost as obvious: the first time England had a man over all tournament; Tuilagi's team-mates attempting to grab him a life-jacket only to fumble it under pressure; Jonny Wilkinson throwing a lifeline three metres behind him.

The fun masks a rather more serious truth. England's quarter-final exit at the hands of France capped a campaign as sobering as any they have endured since the inaugural World Cup 24 years ago.

Wales, by contrast, have reached their first semi-final since those heady days of 1987 playing the sort of thrilling rugby that has made them every Kiwi's favourite second team. In their progression, like that of the other three nations left in the competition, can be found the key reasons why England went so badly wrong.

England's players look dejected as they reflect on defeat by France. Picture: Getty

Playing personnel first. A World Cup is no place for dilettantes, goes Martin Johnson's maxim. Tight Test rugby requires battle-hardened veterans, experienced old hands bearing the scars of previous campaigns. His starting XV against France featured seven players over the age of 30.

Warren Gatland, like Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, has taken a different approach. Six of his picks for the hugely impressive win over Ireland were not even born in 1987, yet those young bucks - Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies and George North - have formed the bedrock of his side's success.

Where Wales' tyros have played with dynamism and without fear, their English rivals appeared slowed by the weight of expectation and history on their shoulders.

The same tale was repeated in the other Wellington semi-final. The Springbok team was their most experienced ever, with 836 caps in their starting XV alone; the Australian side that put them out was inspired by 23-year-olds David Pocock and Will Genia, 22-year-old Kurtley Beale and 21-year-old James O'Connor. Who says you win nothing with kids?

Johnson stuck doggedly with 32-year-old Wilkinson, even when all the evidence suggested his best days in an England shirt had passed. Gatland didn't even have Stephen Jones, his closest equivalent, on the replacements' bench.

Had the two coaches switched jobs, would Johnson have first gambled on picking Rhys Priestland, such a cool controller at 10 for Wales, and then stuck with him when Jones and James Hook returned to full fitness?

North, at 19 years and 158 days, became the youngest player to ever play in a World Cup knock-out match. Would Johnson have capped a teenager who had played just six games of regional rugby and then thrown him into a World Cup quarter-final?

Let's narrow the focus. All four of the semi-finalists have at least one place-kicker in their ranks who could handle the controversial Gilbert Virtuo match ball.

Priestland slotted a beauty of a conversion from the right touchline to cement Wales' early lead against Ireland, with Halfpenny landing a penalty of near Paul Thorburn dimensions to extend it further before the break. Dimitri Yachvili's two early pots gave France a lead they would never relinquish. Piri Weepu landed seven penalties to ease a nervous All Blacks past Argentina's brave challenge, while O'Connor 's boot nicked a win for the Wallabies that their paltry 24% of possession barely justified.

Wilkinson has seldom looked less comfortable. Of his 21 place-kick attempts during this World Cup, he landed just 10. So concerned were team management that they gambled on that ball-switching manoeuvre that ended with two of their key backroom staff suspended for the Scotland game.

Wales' most impressive performer has been skipper Warburton. The Wallabies' win over South Africa was based around Pocock's tireless turnover work at the breakdown, the departure through injury of his opposite number Heinrich Brussow a pivotal moment.

England's lack of a modern-day open-side to match that trio proved critical. Lewis Moody is many things - frighteningly brave, utterly committed - but a top-draw scavenger and stealer he is not. He was also not match fit, his nagging knee injury leaving him short of gas and go-forward.

Across the team, England had stop-gaps where others had specialists.

Andrew Sheridan's early injury meant Matt Stevens filling in at loose-head and struggling against the wily experts in Euan Murray and Nicolas Mas. James Haskell was shuffled round the back row no matter how well he played, Toby Flood thrown in at inside centre despite not having played outside Wilkinson for 18 months.

In Warburton, Jamie Roberts and Gethin Jenkins, Wales have on-pitch leaders through the spine of the team. When Keith Earls slid into the corner just after the interval on Saturday to bring the scores level, those three led a team-talk under the posts that stiffened resolve and lifted spirits.

Teenager George North (left) and captain Sam Warburton have been two of Wales' outstanding performers. Picture: Getty

England once had the same. Their World Cup triumph of 2003 was founded on the strong minds and loud voices of Neil Back, Lawrence Dallaglio, Matt Dawson and Will Greenwood - all of whom could step up from skipper Johnson's shadow when times got tough. There are pleasant characters throughout the team of 2011, but inspirational rabble-rousers are in short supply.

What of the coaching set-up?

Johnson's managerial career is just over three years old. Gatland has been a coach for five times that period of time. While Johnson's sole experience has come with England, his Welsh counterpart honed his trade in club and provincial rugby with Galwegians, Connacht, Waikato and Wasps, and first coached at international level seven years before Johnson's own playing career even came to an end.

Johnson may one day become as good as coach as he was a player. But these things take time and involve struggles (and learning how to deal with them); Graham Henry freely admits the All Blacks defeat in the 2007 World Cup changed both his methods and results.

Johnson continues to defend his forwards coach John Wells and attack coach Brian Smith from the criticism regularly aimed at them. Whether either is as effective as Gatland's lieutenant Shaun Edwards - of the modern game's most innovative thinkers and motivators - is another matter.

Advocates of Johnson and his staff would rightly point out that none of this was being raised last spring, when England were winning the Six Nations championship off the back of successive victories over Australia and Gatland and Edwards were presiding over a run of eight consecutive defeats.

But one team has peaked at the right time and the other has not. England have regressed over the past six months, Wales have come on at pace.

To the nitty-gritty. The dominant aspect of Wales' win over Ireland was their extraordinary defence.

Luke Charteris alone made 16 tackles in the first half, his team-mates following Edwards' plan to take the Irish marauders low round the legs to halt their charges rather than wrapping them and keeping them on their feet as Ireland prefer.

England had shipped just one try in their pool matches. Against the French they missed 10 tackles in the first 40 minutes to concede that 16-point lead, a bigger deficit than they had ever come back from before.

Where the Welsh were composed under pressure, holding Ireland at bay time and time again on their try-line and doing it all without conceding penalties, England crumpled.

Wilkinson kicked a re-start straight into touch and flung passes behind his runners and straight into touch. Stevens was mangled by Mas into error after error. Louis Deacon ambled back through the French forwards like a man in a day-dream.

England's players had talked all week of the importance of winning the first 20 minutes.

But where Wales exploded out of the traps with Roberts' battering runs and aerial threat and then Shane Williams' try in the corner after multiple quick, clean phases, Johnson's men lumbered and toiled.

Finally, the intangibles. England may have enjoyed themselves off the field in New Zealand, too much so at times, but they looked uncomfortable with the attention their antics, allied to their patchy form, brought them.

They weren't the only ones who got stuck into the sauce - All Blacks winger Cory Jane was all over the weekend papers here after a late night before the Argentina game - but they couldn't produce fireworks on the pitch to match.

Gatland's men appear to have relished every second. His wife, Trudi, arranged free homestays for travelling fans in their hometown of Hamilton, while his players imposed a voluntary alcohol ban from pool games onwards.

One team is heading home, another into their biggest game in a quarter of a century. The contrast could barely be clearer.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Well said and good luck to them. It's refreshing that so many of Wales' talented young players are being given the chance and play with so much freedom. As you imply I don't think Johnson would have given them the chance had the roles been reversed. We've seen young players like Lawes come in but they feel almost pushed on Johnson rather than being selected. Once he has his favourites it looks like he sticks with them (which is to be admired in one sense) but he needs to judge when to drop them as well. This is also the case with the coaches. If he goes on supporting them I feel he may be pushed.

    Best of luck Wales.

  • Comment number 2.

    A little harsh on the English team, they gave everything just came up a little short. Do feel it is time to blood the youngsters in the English set up, time for a re build and re focus on youth.
    Fantastic job by the welsh boys, great to see them push on into the tournament playing the game the way it should be played

  • Comment number 3.

    Great article Tom, and couldn't agree more with what you've written.

    You're right, none of this was being said when England demolished Australia last year, and were 4 from 4 in the Six Nations, but no-one can honestly say that the team that played on Saturday are fit to lace the boots of the team that beat Australia. The sad thing is that we are left with the conclusion that the courage and invention that England showed in that match has been coached out of them over the past 9 months. At the time we were saying how it was so refreshing to see the England players taking risks and not playing with fear, and yet that is exactly what seems to have returned. I am a firm believer that if teams go into games looking to "grind out results", then they are more likely to come away with a loss than a win. England seem to be falling into that trap.

    The decision to leave England's two most dynamic forwards (Lawes and Haskall) on the bench and not to introduce them until 3/4 of the game had passed was bizarre. I am a big MJ fan, but the over-reliance on "experience" rather than effectiveness may have cost England the French game.

    Additionally, I do not understand why MJ took Hape with him to NZ, if he obviously did not trust him to play at 12 in a big game. Between being picked for the tour and the France game, he played once, and scored two tries in a pretty decent display. If MJ was not going to pick him for big games, he should not have been on the plane.

    I also agree that the lack of a genuine 7 is our big downfall, we rarely have had quick ball to play with - why did we leave Fourie behind, and what does Chris Robshaw have to do to get picked?

    Hope this defeat can lead to the retirement of the elder statesmen, who have undoubtably served us well, so we can begin to build on the core youth of the team, which is made up of some extremely impressive players.

  • Comment number 4.

    There were lots of questions at the time of MJ appointment around his lack of experience. It now looks like he is going to end up the fall-guy but the "old farts in blazers" (chief being Rob Andrew these days) are more culpable and should resign.
    Wales play with freedom and a distinct lack of ego's, something the English squad could not manage.
    How was MJ expected to succeed with the same back room staff who got his predecessor sacked?

  • Comment number 5.

    Now I agree with the comments that Wales are an improving side and that England were pitiful at the world cup but does nobody think all the praise on the Welsh should perhaps be delayed until they actually beat a major Southern Hemisphere team.

  • Comment number 6.

    rushies_tache - Johnno had the chance to change the back room staff - he decided to keep them. After all they are all his Leicester friends.

  • Comment number 7.

    yeh Odarroch,, maybe MJ should have picked an all Kiwi and South african south sea island 15,, like the cricket team. just chuck in Waldrom too. and maybe bring back in flutie, then we would have had Stevens, corbissiero, flourie, hape, flutie,hartley, tuilagi, maybe even a real english player or two. its pathetic that with 450,000 registered players in england they cant field an all english team.

  • Comment number 8.

    Although I do not count myself as English, having grown up in Wales and spent time living in New Zealand, I technically am, being from Cornwall. I am ashamed of the English teams off the pitch antics and further mortified by the way they chose an 'all black' kit as their away kit. It ultimately showed a complete lack of respect for the New Zealanders. I hope the press out there are now enjoying themselves.

    England, I have been saying for a long time, need to change their game plan and their players. So many of the guys playing for them are Johnson's old mates from 2003. Wilkinson should have been dropped in the first few games, when it was discovered that he couldn't cope with the new ball and Toby Flood brought in; I really do feel for him. The game that was played in 2003 won't work against teams any more - the game has moved on, yet England can't see that. Johnson needs to go and the whole of the team cut and reselected in the spring for the 6 Nations on the basis of talent and fitness NOT on who has a good record in the past.

    And the poor off the pitch antics? The players involved should have been sent home with their tails between their legs - a disgrace to their country. The ball switching should have been punished by the IRB, with points docked from England in the pool games. They have got away with far too much in the last couple of weeks.

    Wales, what can I say? I am so so proud of the boys! The whole of Wales is. Warren Gatland has kept stuck to is guns and picked on form. He has transformed the team, getting them to a peak just in time. The players are disciplined - I know they have their fare share of off the pitch incidents, but they have then been dropped for a few weeks/games to have a think and then have had to work really hard to get back into the team, Andy Powell being a key case in point.

    The benefit of the southern hemisphere coach is that Wales have been coached to play in the southern's wider, more expansive game which quite frankly, is more exciting to watch. Gatland has done wonders again, like he did in 2008. Yes, Wales disappeared back under the radar after the 2008 Grand Slam, as Gatland rebuilt and restructured the team, but he has got them spot on now, the plan all along? I suspect so.

    Well done boys, you have done your country proud and whatever happens in this semi final, no one can say that any one of you have let the side down. Hopefully it'll be a New Zealand vs Wales final :D Cymru Am Byth!!

  • Comment number 9.

    The English team didnt look like they cared about winning the world cup. They were there for Tindalls late stag do. Thats about it. I think this is the worst state English rugby has been in for years. I donno where they can go from here.

    Well done excited to see how they do in next years 6N...a grand slam must be on the cards but I know other teams will raise their game as well so it will be great to watch.

    Best of luck Wales.

  • Comment number 10.

    Have to agree with your blog. Hopefully not another false dawn but regardless of any further progress in the World Cup, they have been refreshing and are playing rugby.
    England look over-coached (have done for years in some respects) and have lost the ability to think on their feet. Perhaps symptomatic of a 'modern rugby player' who has to be big and bulky and the rest is secondary. The trouble with that is that when big and bulky is matched by the opponents there is no Plan B.
    They have perhaps a world beating back 3 but the constant 10 man game seems to be in-grained and they can't get away from it.
    Feel sorry for Johnson who has been dignified but totally let down by the players (coaches and RFU too). He may well be made a scapegoat but this would be unfair.

  • Comment number 11.

    There is no doubt that England possess a wealth of talent but Johnson has honed the devil-may-care attitude out of the individual to eliminate mistakes. What happened is that, to a man, the number of errors multiplied on the field. Wilkinson continually threw the ball behind the support runners when in good attacking positions. All the forwards at some point dropped straightforward passes and you can only believe that this is as a result of the stultifying way Johnson has coached them that they are terrified when in possession. It led to turgid team performances and they were lucky, in hindsight, to top the pool let alone qualify. A bit more belief from both the Argentinians and Scots would have sent them packing a week earlier.

    Wales on the other hand seem to have a really unified squad and the players appear to be enjoying their rugby. Freedom of expression coupled with a strong desire to win appears to be Wales' mantra and the difference between the two teams could hardly be more obvious.

    Off the pitch Wales have been saints personified whilst England will rue the cavalier nights out as being another distraction they had to deal with thereby losing the true focus of what lay ahead. Johnson has squeezed the talent out of the team on the pitch but has given them license off it, paradoxically.

  • Comment number 12.

    Great teams have a style about how they play. England's looks like a coalition between the attack, defence, forwards, front row, kicking..... coaches, and it does not work. We need a head coach to dictate the playing style, and a coaching and playing team that supports how he wants the game played - look how Gatland managed the way Wasps (when he was in charge) and Wales play - everything to the same style.
    Couple of times we did make beaks (Tuilangi and Banahan spring to mind), where was the support? Good teams score points from those breaks.

  • Comment number 13.

    Very easy to say that Johnson should've played kids as it paid off for Wales.. however if England had won and Wales had lost, we'd all be reading about how you just can't beat the old guard... Risks don't always pay off, but they did this time for Wales.

  • Comment number 14.

    Agreed on all counts Tom.

    As committed an England fan as I am, it almost felt anticlimactic even before kick off after the tremendous Welsh display. The nagging ongoing hope that we were just about to come good with a world class performance felt weaker than ever.

    What concerns me most are worrying signs of behaviourial parallels (on and off the field) between a number of the squad and their national footballing peers. It saddens me greatly that I do not hold the degree of personal and patriotic affection for a squad of 22 players that I always have done in the past. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for confidence, even arrogance at times, to perform at the highest level - however that always needs to be underpinned by quality and results.

    I do believe we have some tremendous players in this squad going forward and no shortage of younger talent on the sidelines, however I do not feel the current coaching and leadership set-up (again, on and off the field) is in a place to realise that potential. When one looks back, MJ's 'successes' as coach really do begin to look more like luck than judgement.

    Thank you so much to the old boys, for all the memories (Jonny, Lewis and Simon in particular), but let's move on now.

    Wishing Wales the very best of luck for the remainder of the tournament.

  • Comment number 15.

    Very good and balanced points Tom..

    I think that the whole England camp has struggled since 2003 - and what a mighty squad they had then... it seems to me that the England camp have held onto the supermen like Wilkinson just that bit too long - yes you must have experience in the camp setup and some of the players must be the rock on which the youngsters can cling when the going gets really tough but Wales, and to a degree Ireland - though they too have kept ROG and BOD possibly just that bit too long too - have based their squad setup on the NZ idea... bring in loads of young blood and start to bed them into the squad ethos and mentality ready for the next tournament.

    I haven't seen anything of the ego 'I am a god' attitude from the Wales players and Shane Williams is certainly able to wear that title if he wishes but he was diving in to the thick of things and scrapping as hard as the next man against Ireland - are his days coming to and end? maybe - but in George North and the rest of the 3/4 line there is talent aplenty and they are now used to training and playing together like never before.

    Back to England: - Johnson should hold his place but the RFU really need to wake up and smell the aroma of strong coffee - there is a huge pool of talent in the Premiership waiting for the opportunity to burst forth and fight to wear the white jersey but they are getting older each day and more set in their ways... the back room staff need to swept out with a big broom MJ is big enough to use it but who can he bring in to support him and provide the dynamic thinking required for modern rugby?

    Wales have shown how youth hold no fear yet they are disciplined - no alcohol.. training continually - and trying to be the best of the best - As a proud Wales fan I believe that they can beat France - you just never which French side will take to the park BUT I am still not sure that they can beat NZ in a final in NZ... time will tell....

    Ireland were unlucky - they faced a fantastic team yet, had the day dawned a different hue they could have rumbled Wales and defended as stoutly and justly gone through...

    Overall though this World cup has proven yet again that the fans in the stadia and in the pubs behave and shout loudly and praise each other side - yes I even cheered for England and the rest of the home nations when Wales were not playing - and the game of rugby union is the greatest winner of it all.

  • Comment number 16.

    8. Interesting points but I do think that the 2003 tactics could just need that awesome pack. Sadly too many of the pack at the weekend aren't fit to lace the 2003's boots. Although I like Cole he didn't have the best of times. Thompson is past his best and why Corbissiero didn't get the chance to start I don't know. Complete lack of balance in the back row as well.

    The only off the field incident which bugs me is Tuilagi as it was reckless and he should have had more respect.

  • Comment number 17.

    I don't think that it is all doom and gloom for England and I certainly think MJ has achieved enough over the past 3 years to warrent a stay on in his current role.

    Of the coaching staff I would make two changes however, I would bring in a 'breakdown technician' somebody to modernise the way England perform at the breakdown in both defence and attack, although I wouldn't remove Mike Ford as Englands general defence has been very good throughout the tournament. Secondly I think its time for a new attack coach too often over recent years have England been found to lack the cutting edge when up against the top teams and I certainly think that was the case this year.

    Of the personnel I honestly think that if England could produce/find a more balanced back row then that would go a long way to dealing with many of the problems that they face, a traditional number 7 is a must but I wonder if there is one available at the moment (Fourie and Robshaw are both very good players but neither truely offers what we see in the likes of Warburton, Pockock or McCaw). Nick Easter has been an excellent player for England at times but we really need to produce an 8 with his intelligence and ability at the back of the scrum with a boat load more dynamism in attack. Finally I think we need to find a centre pairing that works, has the right amount of creativity and go forward potential (Manu should definately be part of this). There are a lot of 12's around the AP and I'd like to see some given a prolonged stay in the team (personally I am a Billy Twelvetrees fan but I'm sure people have lots of opinions) when England work out how they want to play in this part of the pitch.

    Overall though as an England fan I'm optimistic about the future (as always, I believe it may be a curse). Plenty of our squad at this world cup was young enough to be around in 4/8 years time: Cole, Corbisiero, Hartley, Lawes, Croft, Haskell, Ashton, Foden, Manu to name a few, add 4 years experience and a good strategy/game plan and the future looks exciting.

    As for Wales in the semi's I wish them luck (although I won't be supporting anyone from now on just enjoying the games) they certainly have the ability to go all the way but it is a case now that all 4 teams could probably say the same thing. I have been massivley impressed with them this world cup particularaly with the consistency they seem to be showing (always a potential down fall in the past - since i've been watching anyhow), so lets hope for 2 mor

  • Comment number 18.

    Typical. Wales get to the semi's playing good adventurous rugby while England scrape through and get turned over by an average French side yet all headlines still revolve around the team on the way home. If Martin Johnsons men spent more time concentrating on what went on the pitch rather than off it they would be preparing for Saturday's match. Now the only decision he has to make is "window or aisle" seat.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am uncomfortable with age old adage of blaming Wells and Smith for the failure at this world cup. Yes England were playing against weak sides in the group stage but they only conceded 1 try - better than any other team in the tournament. Over the last year they have proved that they can score enough tries and I don't think there's too much wrong with their attack.

    I don't think the England players ever peaked and played at the top if their game (such as the distinctly average 2007 over-achievers). Also, you have to say that as soon as Sheridan was ruled out - our props looked very average… when was the last time England had any strength at loose head proper??? The back row is also something where we are much weaker than other teams. We simply do not have the quality across the board to win big games (possibly bar Croft) and all our players seem to be good 6s playing out of position. If you look at the Quality of back rows from teams who have gone through they are all streets ahead of ours. Esoecially at 7! I suspect if Frourie didn't get injured we would have possibly ended up calling him up in NZ.

    The world cup was also the first time we saw the frailties in Ben Youngs' game. He through horribly high, slow passes time and time again throughout the tournament. He was possibly working behind a scrum who was struggling but there was a noticeable difference in speed and tempo when Wigglesworth came on.

    Strange for a country with so much playing resources but England just looked to lack depth in their squad. A few players in vital positions under performed in some form (Wilko with the boot) and that is why England are where they are.
    I don't think Wales have a better squad than England but they do have better players nin vital positions (Warbuton at 7) but also players in important positions performed for them and hats off to them. Controversially, I would add that I don't think Wales are playing the exciting attacking rugby that some people seem to think they are. If it was England - it would be called boring. Their performance against Ireland was built around soaking up the pressure but is interesting that certain teams are always labelled under a certain way. I think Wales looked extremely good against Ireland but, as it should be, it was a game plan built around defence - not exciting attack.


  • Comment number 20.

    "Where Wales' tyros have played with dynamism and without fear, their English rivals appeared slowed by the weight of expectation and history on their shoulders.

    The same tale was repeated in the other Wellington semi-final."

    Complete rubbish.

    I'm a gutted Bok supporter, but to compare the the two Wellington semis in this sense is casting England in far too kind a light. We are still proud of our team today, we don't need a root-and-branch review of South African rugby... and I fancy too we might have beaten the eventual champions.

  • Comment number 21.

    I think its a bit early to laud the Wales team as the second coming we have beaten them twice in our last 3 meetings but the comments about Johnsons coaching credentials are sound. WC QF are not the time to strart hairbrained selections, picking flood and wilko left no one to come on if either had a shocker (a likely event) Hape should have started at centre. Playing Lawes at flanker when Haskell was our best back row forward was plain deft.
    Oh and the other thing :-if your attacking runners take the ball at pace and the ball is presented in the middle of their body they will score tries....Simples
    I am sick of seeing England backs take the ball standing still and above their heads or behind them it is absoluetly basic basic rugby and if we cant even get that right then we have no chance.

  • Comment number 22.

    "Where Wales' tyros have played with dynamism and without fear, their English rivals appeared slowed by the weight of expectation and history on their shoulders.

    The same tale was repeated in the other Wellington semi-final."

    South Africa dominated their match, just didn't pick up the points from it. England were dominated by France for about 75 of the 80 minutes. Forwards were slow to the breakdown and gave away penalty after penalty. Not to mention our 'tackling'.

  • Comment number 23.

    The writing was on the wall in the selection of the squad and the warm-up matches. As per Odarroch, Hape wasn't trusted to play at 12 so why bring him? Why wasn't Flutey in the squad (if he was I bet he'd have played against France)? The lack of dedicated loose-head cover - bizarre - it cost us sooo much. And the reliance on old-stagers instead of trusting youth, or the reliance on pack-centric rugby instead of developing quick ball for backs, the lack of invention in the coaching, the lack of discipline (yet in Wales Warburton gave up alcohol completely 6 mths ago in pursuit of glory) - all these things I am delighted to see have been highlighted as even more glaring folly by the glorious triumphs of Wales. So what if they haven't won anything yet or beaten a SH team. Just LOOK at how they play - their rugby following countrymen can be proud of that team.

  • Comment number 24.

    'Would Johnson have capped a teenager who had played just six games of regional rugby and then thrown him into a World Cup quarter-final?' In fairness, the story with Tuilagi is not much different. Barely out of his teens when he was called up, after less than a full season of Premiership rugby.

  • Comment number 25.

    In 2003 we should have pensioned off the old (successful, but old) guard.
    In 2007 we should have pensioned off the old (successful, but old) guard.
    In 2011 we should pension off the old (unsuccessful, and old) guard.

    I do not hold out any hope that we will.

    England need root and branch reform to attitudes, fitness, skill, understanding of the laws, execution, and imagination. The types of performance we saw in NZ in the last few weeks are all too familiar. We have played like this all too often since 2003. It's a trial to watch England play.

    One silver lining, I (along with Phil Vickery and many many others) can now enjoy the rest of the RWC without my blood pressure reaching bursting point!

  • Comment number 26.

    Typical. England lose a game and there needs to be a full review.

    I don't think England are far off the mark, they just need to sort the 10, 12 & 13 positions.

    I think the press and media slaughtering they've had hasn't helped. Its turning out like the English football team, they just get hammered all the time by the press. If the media just backed them and got behind them they'd probably be more happy and play with a bit more freedom.

  • Comment number 27.

    No-one seems to have mentioned the fairly obvious correlation between Wales' efforts to become the fittest side prior to the RWC with their cryogenic antics in Poland and the fact they have produced incredible defensive performances that have got them into a semi-final. They looked visibly fitter than Ireland, especially in the tight five. Perhaps this is why their decision-making late on in games seems to be spot on and their defensive work seemingly tireless, especially against England in Cardiff in the warm up game. England on the other hand look knackered after 55 mins - not only a reflection of fitness levels but also perhaps age? All credit to Gatland for such an inspired pre-tournament move, but it also highlights the lack of innovation amongst the England coaches. Jonno might not be able to control everything his players do (or more particularly, don't do) on the pitch, but he can ensure they are in optimal physical condition come RWC time. The southern hemisphere sides have just come off the back of a Tri Nations tournament so fitness will tell towards the end of the RWC

  • Comment number 28.

    No excuses. We weren't very good at the basic stuff and the desire did not seem to be there. It just seemed like an opportunity for some to maximise their off-field personas although you could argue none of them look good at the moment.

    They are running the same course as the England football team and the self-discipline of the squad needs examining, not by us, the media or the RFU but by the so-called professionals themselves on and off the pitch. Big let down for the nation, they proved they are just like the footballers you see in the tabloids.

  • Comment number 29.

    Dave (11.35) If you are out in a bar, diving off boats or abusing hotel staff you WILL get dragged over the coals by the media. If the players wanted a few beers and let their hair down they could have done it in the hotel bar / lounge out of the view of the camera lens. Mind you if you can't put your country before a bottle of lager for a few weeks there is something seriously wrong with the mentallity of the whole set up.

  • Comment number 30.

    Dave Morgan I disagree. Numbers 1 through 8 all need sorting out too. I can only see Haskell, Lawes and Corbs as shoe-ins there for now. And then there is game-plan, style of game, tempo, defensive technique etc etc bla bla.,.........

  • Comment number 31.

    Can any English supporter honestly tell me, whatever media we were fed, when we saw Tindall (Captain, married into the Royal Family, supposed to be a leader, still getting a starting spot) and the others misbehaving at our biggest sporting event that happens only four years that most of who have ever played but were just not big, good or fast enough to aspire to be considered for and could not even get tickets to watch, did not think - just a little bit at least - "This has failure written all
    over it".

    I read a little while ago that the Nissan plant in the North East of England is their most productive in the world, all this with the 'same workers' that we were led to believe a few years ago were responsible for the failure of the the British motor industry. One of the boasts of 'old school' management is 'quality control' - 'we'll make it and inspect it and if it's wrong we'll chuck it out - that's how tough we are' - this applies to products, services and people. Andrew's threatened 'robust review' is a good example of this appalling, outdated old school, British management. What, for example, Nissan brought to Washington was modern management, Investment, leadership, engineering, innovation, dealing with people properly; they brought 'Quality Assurance' - doing the right things to make sure the product, service and people are right - suddenly the 'British Foreman or Worker' is shown to be at the very least equal to any any from anywhere, as they always were.

    Fast forward to the RFU - get it right at the top - the rest gets put right naturally, right through to grass roots, player development, selection - of staff and subsequently players, attitude, respect for the game, its major tournaments and its supporters (some probably saved for years to watch England's 'performances' in NZ).

    It's like the game itself - simple - just do it right.

  • Comment number 32.

    Not strictly true that none of this was being raised last spring. The players who made a difference last autumn and onwards were Youngs, Ashton, Lawes, Foden etc....a crop of younsters in the mould of the Welsh. But Johnson didn't pick them until he was forced into a corner and in truth giving youth its head isn't his way so he quickly went back to his default setting - JW, Moody, Tindall, Cueto etc
    He never was the man for the job.

  • Comment number 33.

    On the point of an out and out seven, we've shot ourselves in the foot. England haven't managed Tom Rees at all, he should of been the player that Warburton is now except leading England out. Except he has just been injuried, rushed back, injuried, rushed back etc. This guy should of been given the very best treatment the RFU could afford. We have hung two other sevens out to dry in the sunshine of France in Magnus Lund & Stefan Armitage and Saull at Sarries hasn't had a look in at all.

    The issue is that we aren't producing players for specialist roles, too much pressure is put on players to be versitile, to cover several roles instead of picking the best player in each position we had 15 of the best players mixed and matched into various roles.

  • Comment number 34.

    @26. Dave Morgan

    Umm..... I think you are daydreaming. The scrum were ineffectual too.

  • Comment number 35.

    Agree with 24.
    England seem to be stuck on the tried and tested way to win (e.g. 2003) which let's be honest, wasn't pretty. They have talented plays but need the shackles off. Some tweaks are all it would need to be honest, they haven't become bad overnight. 7/10/12 would perhaps sort most olf the issues and remember, rugby is a confidence game!
    Regarding 24, true but am I alone in not liking these 'residency' rules?
    Tuilagi is Samoan, Hape is NZ. Not getting at England as Japan, Italy, everyone does it (we (Wales) did it years ago). Seen it worse in athletics with Kenyans running for Norway, and I don't like it.
    Should be where the person is born or where their parents are born. End of. Simples.
    England will be fine, and sadly it will probably be the making off them!

  • Comment number 36.

    Good blog. Just about hits the nail on the head.

    I'm sure England gave 100% in each match although ultimatelty coming up short. However, they lacked inspiration and even genuine team spirit - the Welsh really do seem to all be singing sfrm the same hymn sheet.

    Agree with #26. All is not lost. England have some pretty good young(ish) players. If they can be coached in a less dogged manner and manouvered towards a moderately less brute force and ignorance type approach, we have the makings of a pretty tasty side (with a few addtions).

    I get the impression that the players are afraid of MJ. Not sure if this is right but if it is, he is the wrong coach. The best way to get people in any walk of life to excel at any particular thing is because the enjoy doing is and want to do it rather than being afraid of the consequences if they fail (the media probable have a hand here as well). If the coash can genuinely inspire the players, then we'll get the inspiration on the pitch.

    Well done Wales. Kepp up the good work. (GGreat top see Br

  • Comment number 37.

    It would have been interesting to read your blog had MJ gone down the road of complete youth and still lost. I'm pretty certain you and many others would have said there was a need for older calmer heads. If you have already posted a blog like this post 6 Nations pre WC then you are gifted, if not then just another hindsight hack.

  • Comment number 38.

    Would Tindall make any of the other 6N starting line ups? I guess not. England carried too many cart horses, with one plan of ten man rugby. Time to discard Moody, Wilkinson, Thompson, Shaw, Tindall and a few more. Invest in youngsters for the next few years. Forget Hape and Flutie - get some young talent in.
    I wonder how someone with Foden's talent is feeling right now?
    With their first choice prop gone home, what was the alternative plan?
    Wales arent quite up there yet. A win over France by 15 to 20 points however, will worry either Australia or New Zealand. I hope that Australia win that semi, so Wales can have a go at the Australian front row - a trick the boks missed.

  • Comment number 39.

    England need a manager with a strategic brain and not a players brain...and a captain with leadership qualities...once they get these 2 things they will be a world leader in rugby again!

  • Comment number 40.

    I agree with the blog, England have been poor, but there are enough good players to have beaten France and given Wale a good game.
    England have the players, but the coaching staff is a big worry, Englands forwards were poor in every game, and a complete shambles at the breakdown, what is Wells doing? he's a dinosaur, modern fresh thinking needed.
    Rowntree as a scrum coach is very average, wrong selections, which he has history for with the Lions, he is not an innovator of the latest techniques.
    Ford was not great at Saracens, and England look venerable every time a team put the ball wide, look at Wales defence, aggressive, and quick (Edwards).

    I really believe England have the players, but they have to get a coach that will trust in some youth, Corbascerio should have started, pick a loosehead to play loosehead, pick a 12 to play 12 and one that can pass off both hands and don't convert a flyhalf, pick a 9 that doesn't take 2-3 steps looking of a gap then pass when there is none and wonder why the 10 - 12 get clobbered, England 's play was naive to say the least.
    Not many of the current team seem to have the edge needed, no leaders.
    The one thing thing that has resulted out of the WC is the game time the young lads are getting at home in the Premiership, lots of talent, but back row is a problem at 7 and 8 ,England need an out and out 7 to compete at the breakdown and create turnovers,and also an 8 that can carry ball dynamically, they need to look at Ben Morgan at the Scarlets, not committed to Wales yet ,Bristol lad, or what about a maverick choice Bannahan???Big and quick and he's no back .
    The problem at 12, again take a chance Twelvetrees and Joseph have looked good this season , the wing Sharples , Wade.
    Johnson will always play a safety first game, thats his nature, but to go forward England need to take some risks.
    The next game i would go for
    1 Corbasciero
    2 Hartley/Gray
    3 Stevens
    4 Lawes
    5 Attwood
    6 Croft
    7 Haskill/Seymore
    8 Morgan
    9 Wrigglesworth/Simpson
    10 Farrell
    11 Wade
    12 Twelvetrees/Joseph
    13 Tuilangi
    14 Ashton
    15 Foden

    and let them run!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    My fat fingers didn't let me finish my comment:-

    Good blog. Just about hits the nail on the head.

    I'm sure England gave 100% in each match although ultimatelty came up short. However, they lacked inspiration and even genuine team spirit - the Welsh really do seem to all be singing from the same hymn sheet.

    Agree with #26. All is not lost. England have some pretty good young(ish) players. If they can be coached in a less dogged manner and manouvered towards a moderately less brute force and ignorance type approach, we have the makings of a pretty tasty side (with a few addtions).

    I get the impression that the players are afraid of MJ. Not sure if this is right but if it is, he is the wrong coach. The best way to get people in any walk of life to excel at any particular thing is to get them to enjoy doing it and want to do it rather than being afraid of the consequences if they fail (the media probably have a hand here as well). If the coach can genuinely inspire the players, then we'll get the inspiration on the pitch.

    Well done Wales. Keep up the good work. Great to see Britain still represented at the World Cup! (Only kidding Wales supporters, I can't use that old chestnut now England are out!)

  • Comment number 42.


    I agree with Tom Rees he could have been an amazing openside at international level but I think injuries ruined his career rather than the RFU. I do think that if the RFU could get a central contract scenario going like the ECB have done then this could prevent (as much as is possible) future similar situations occuring.

    Specialist positions are a must (although players should be able to cover others so that there are options on the bench) but I don't think the AP has helped to develop opensides; it seems to produce back rows who are hybrids between 6-7 rather than specialists.

    Saull is an option and at 23 is the right age and has been in the representative sides so it would be good for him to make the step up (if he is in good form come the 6 nations)

  • Comment number 43.

    Have spent a fortune on travel, tickets and accommodation getting to NZ so feel a little qualified to comment on England. We were poor, arrogant, ill-disciplined on and off the pitch. Johnson as had a 'laissez-faire leadership' style which hasn't worked - the team haven't appreciated the space, responsibility and accountability that affords. And as you say, there is no comparison to Wales. I believe, ultimatley, Johnson is a winner, he needs time to learn and develop not only his managerial/leadership style but his tactical/strategic thinking - this will come if given time - everyone knew he had no experience when appointed so why throw that away now that he has 3 years behind him? Johnson will learn - his biggest issue so far has not being ruthless with the old guard, who unfortunately have let him down more than most.

  • Comment number 44.

    I believe that the RFU is rotten to its core. Political in-fighting and power struggles at the top of our game have led to a situation where any old rubbish will do. We have the largest player pool (by far) and the most money of any union in global rugby. Why is this not being utilised? We have the talent coming through the ranks as can be seen from our performances in the U20 world cup. Why is it not being nurtured? The answer is that it is by the PROFESSIONAL rugby clubs around the country who invest large sums of money in academies and scouts to produce rugby players who have a certain level of skill.

    However, the AMATEUR setup of the RFU who are responsible for the national team has meant that failure is tolerated. All we hear about from Twickenham is endless internal reviews just like the one we about to be forcefed concerning our latest dismal display. The one time they did have someone come in from outside to review the systems in place at the RFU, the results were so embarassing that Martyn Thomas had to threaten legal action just in case anybody got to read it! Disgraceful!!!

    In a professional environment, the coaching staff of the senior team would have been sacked along with Andy Robinson back in 2006 (obviously with the exception of Brian Smith who had not been hired at that stage). Five years on and John Wells is still being found out at this level. How can they possibly justify John Wells still being our forwards coach after eight years given the raft of penalties our forwards have gifted opposing teams? How can they justify his position after eight years when he can't even tell his team manager that Mat Stevens should not be playing on the wrong side of the scrum? Surely an international forwards coach should know that it requires the use a completely different set muscles which are built up over the course of a prop's lifetime. The same can be said for John Callard. How can they look at the steady decline of our national team's kicking performance both out of hand and from the tee? Why are employing a kicking coach and then letting Dave Alred coach Wilko and Flood anyway? It is madness.

    Given our resources we should be up there with the SH as the most successful team in World Rugby. Instead we are nothing but a laughing stock. The sad thing is that it won't be changing anytime soon.

  • Comment number 45.

    #26 Dave.
    Good analysis.
    As a Welshman I hope you're the next England manager!

  • Comment number 46.

    I think this blog started in the right vein - England lacked quality man to man against seven of the other 1/4 finalists in key positions: 7, 8, 12, while other key positions 2, 9, 10 had poor games.

    I don't think England's WC is a disaster as last September I'd have feared worse. BUT we must now rebuild and renew. There are plenty of quality players who've not had a sniff at the squad and also plenty of players who make the squad and then don't do what they do week in week out.

    We need a coach with a 'grand plan' of how to play the game and how he intends to take us forward not win the next match. We now have four years to try and get it right - let's not leave the planing until 2014.

    Finally, and though I think it's a shame to say this, I think this squad lack discipline and the inner steel to drive them onwards. Everyday should be about making yourself a better player and I don't feel that some have that focus. The only thing I will say about Wales is that their brutal Poland trip has given them the belief in their physical qualities to enable them to take the risks with their skills.

    There will be plenty of words said about the players etc. but what I think worries me is that there's no direction, if Johnson goes who exactly is going to appoint a coach? I don't feel that these players have departed the WC too soon as I think it's probably a fair refelction on where they are. BUT it is the manner of the exit that is disappointing and now it is more important than ever to look forward.

  • Comment number 47.

    Is anyone else a little bit tired of this negative attitude in the coverage of the World Cup? It seems that both the BBC and ITV are more interested in covering the failings of the English side rather than concentrating on the successes of the Welsh and Irish sides.

    It's already boringly predictable that there will be blanket coverage of England's World Cup, no matter what sport or what other home nations are involved, but now that they've been knocked out it would be nice for our national broadcasters to spend some time backing the only remaining UK team, rather than concentrating on Englands on and off-field antics.

    I'm just saying......

  • Comment number 48.

    @horsemadgal the white kit of england has just as much heritage as the black of new zealand; what colour is the away kit of france or the home kit of fiji? people should stop making such a mountain of what is far too small an issue to even be considered the makings of a molehill!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Just come and watch Trinder and May at Gloucester, England centre pairing of the future. Can't see Tindall and Eliota getting back in the team after their WC escapades. Why oh why didn't MJ take Sharples, a winger with real gas?

  • Comment number 50.

    Just a thought. Would there be an Englishman in the side if the next test was for the British & Irish Lions v Australia?

  • Comment number 51.

    Two things:

    1) The ruck.

    We were outmuscled and out-thought all tournament. Our backrow lacked balance, but that wasn't half of it. With the front rows ineffective, and the second rows seemingly absent (Palmer excluded, who went through a good amount of work), we had no chance to secure the quick ball needed to go forward.

    2) Leadership.

    Teams are built upon a core of leaders. These do not have to be the captain, they just have to be players who can get more out of those around them. Our leaders did not do so. People like Moody, Deacon, Hartley, Wilkinson, Tindall and Cueto really let the team down by displaying no leadership qualities. The only players to display a modicum of chat were Flood and Foden, and perhaps Easter.

    3) The Executive

    Martyn Thomas is still in charge of the RFU. How is a mystery. His latest comments - I have never shyed away from a battle - are indicative of his attitude: Me first, rugby second. It is evident he has failed in his role, otherwise the INDEPENDANT report wouldn't have recommended his resignation along with the rest (bar 1) of the board. Rob Andrew is not part of this, and I do not understand why he gets flack every time. He has been in charge of some of the best things in English rugby recently (the junior performances, coming to a compromise over the EPS (only to have PRL stab him in the back)) and MJ was foisted upon him, remember, he wanted to keep Ashton.

    In conclusion, for the rugby team, they need a coach with experience and nous. The only available candidate who can do a job is Nick Mallett, who should be allowed to pick his team. At boardroom level, the RFU and English rugby cannot progress until Martyn Thomas and his cronies are gone. I would be happy with Rob Andrew in charge, but how about Mark Evans - yes, another "Welshman", but he knows what it takes, see the good work over the road at the Stoop.

  • Comment number 52.

    I think people are going overboard.... England lost in the quarter finals to a good French team. We also won the 6 nations this year. We have quite a few good young players coming through and the future is bright.

    I think people should relax a bit.... quarter final stages are never a gimme.

    I think it is actually the "arrogance" of some English fans that is causing this hoitey toitey "we are a laughing stock" reaction to getting knocked out. We were unbeaten in the pool stages and got knocked out to a good side in the quarter finals.

  • Comment number 53.

    You are missing one salient point though when comparing Johnson's England to Wales.

    Who were the alternatives?

    Wilkinson is past his best and looked poor but Flood isn't exactly knocking the door down with great play and talent either and there is next to nobody showing themselves capable of taking on the mantle behind them.

    Likewise, Haskell perhaps aside the back row has nobody good enough to get into the 22 of any of the remaining 4 nations.

    Would Johnson have played North? He gambled on Tuilagi didn't he so I would say yes.

    Who else was there outside the 30? Flutey is the only one I could have seen making a difference but he would only have been 4th/5th choice for Wales or Ireland so would he have suddenly made England great? I doubt it.

    The problem here isn't Johnson really, it's the dire state of players coming through the system (or not as the case seems to be) for England. We had the same issue in Wales 10 years ago, successful grand-slam winning U-21 sides but nobody making the leap up with any real class.

    What happened then was that we went regional and all of a sudden those youngsters weren't turning out for club sides 30-40 times a season at the age of 18. It has given them more chance to develop, train, learn and grow as players. They were still getting game time, but for premiership clubs, ultimately their training was still geared towards improving and moving upwards at a later date instead of the focus being on the desperate need to win the next match. Fewer teams has also meant better coaching levels, more internationals per team to learn from, the ability to be eased into top flight rugby at the right time instead of out of necessity. I hated the loss of my club when we went regional, but it has undoubtedly worked to produce a stronger system for Wales.

    Can England follow this route? No of course not, there is too much money tied up with the clubs, too much power to dispose of them, maybe it isn't the right route anyway. The clubs themselves are unlikely to change much, the risk of investing in youth rather than expensive foreign recruits is relegation and a fall into obscurity so you have a catch 22 situation.

    I don't have the answer, I won't pretend to have it either, but I do know that sacking Johnson and whoever else is nominally in charge at the RFU won't make a jot of difference to the bigger problem.

  • Comment number 54.

    England began last autumn playing an expansive style and opting for younger players. They played some good rugby and got some good results during the AI and 6N. MJ even said himself that England needed to adopt a more expansive style to compete at this WC, yet when it came to the tournament they reverted to an incredibly defensive game plan in the belief that this was the only way to win tournament rugby becuase it had worked for them in the past two WCs.

    The results this weekend have proved this to be wrong and losing in the 1/4 finals might help England change their mindset.

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm not too worried, previous times we went out in the 1/4 finals we made the final next time around ;)

  • Comment number 56.

    I agree with a lot of what's said, but are'n you counting your chickens a bit early with regard to the power of youth - I reckon the All Blacks are still the favourites to win the world cup & they hardly lack experience what with 2 new centurians during the campaign. I'd love to see a Wales v Australia final if only to see the look on Graham Henry's face, but I think New Zealand v France is more likely. Isn't it really about the right mix of youth & experience, the right blend of players & playing style & self-belief.

    One other point about England - Yes the off-field problems were self inflicted but with the press highlighting every mistake, it's no wonder that the players looked terrified & went back into their shells.

  • Comment number 57.

    The teams remaining in the RWC deserve their place in the Semi-finals. Australia were by far the luckiest to get through, but strong defence will always win games and they showed that in spades. What we also saw in spades was Burger reverting to his old tactics. Check out this snippet from the game. How this guy can still be in international rugby is beyond belief:

  • Comment number 58.

    A fine write up if not a bit on the fence. Not sure why we are comparing ourselves to Wales when any of the semifinalists have shown better resolve in theis world cup. The simple fact for us is that whislt rugby is a team game, and here is the irony, the ability of the individual is most crucial especially underpressure. Individuals doing there job at the right time is everything and we saw here more than ever that this was Englands failing. Wilkinson was not at international level this RWC, neither was Youngs and both were in the most crucial positions on the pitch. We took only 1 cantre that has an ability to beat someone 1 on 1. Our back 3 did well but we never played them into the game. The lack of speed across the front five was very telling espescially in the second halves. We had an open side that was injured, Croft did well as did Haskell. Wood should have been developed into an openside for the RWC and Easter whislt wonderful at clearing up would never threaten anyone in attack.
    The result of the individuals not being at a good enough level was that the team lacked dynamism and became easy to play against.
    All other teams pushing for honours have individuals capable of beating players 1 on 1 and this makes their team more challenging to play against.

  • Comment number 59.

    If people think we lost this world cup because of some old blokes in Twickenham who arent running things perfectly then all I can say is - GET A GRIP!

    I am a lawyer so would be really intrigued to listen to one of you armchair journalists explain the causal link between some muppets up in the RFU and our performances on the pitch in NZ??!

    The players that were picked on the tour were the best 30 we have in England, FACT. Ok, some people would have made some different calls here and there, Flutey being the obvious example. Anyway, this was Johnson's call and had nothing to do with the RFU.

    The players played, the coaches coached, and team england lost.

    Please someone enlighten me as to what influence the RFU had on this???

    tomrowlands25 : should we expect your application to CEO of RFU shortly?

    dcclarke2011 : well done on flying out to NZ, brilliant. How exactly were we "arrogant" ??? illdisciplined for going out for a few beers and being videotaped, and because 3 lads in their early 20s made an inappopriate comment to a female? And you really think this has any relevance on anything that happened????

    Most people here know nothing about top level sport, it is about EXECUTING. Come game time, nothing else matters, it is just the media trying to sell column inches.

    The only thing I can agree with among the drivel written by people on here is that, given the incredibly strong infrastructure in english rugby, and all the money etc, is that as supporters we could have expected a more impressive conveyor belt of talent to keep coming. A few notable exceptions aside, it would appear that certainly Wales are producing many more players at the moment. But then again, we won the 6 nations and I think we had the team to beat France and then Wales in the semi. Sometimes it just DOESN't HAPPEN. That is knock out rugby.

    Too many people, too many high horses.

  • Comment number 60.

    Out with the old (rfu, director, coaches, players) and in with the new.
    This will not happen as the people in power will blame everyone but themselves NO CHANGE THERE.
    The entire way rugby is played and coached needs to be changed in England.
    I would even go so far to say that the premiership should be ring fenced add 3 new teams and have licences that can be given and taken away every 4 years or more
    and have player contracted to the rfu.
    I know this is a very brief idea but it could be the only way to not only to catch up with the SH and wales but the only way to fully utilize our large player base and resources.

    All the comments about England rugby being arrogant are right, but i believe it has been the arrogance of the RFU and england coachesnot the fans.

  • Comment number 61.

    Well done Wales. I'm proudly english and have been behind our local pub team in all matches, but now we are out I will be fully behind the Welsh team to win the World Cup. Of course, with all the massive coaching changes ahead courtesy of the RFU review you will be no match for England come the Six Nations....

    Come on Wales, I've got you at 16/1 to win.

  • Comment number 62.

    I have got to say the way England endeavour to play will only be dominant in world rugby once in a lifetime (as it was in 2003). It is highly dependent on having an incredibly dominant forward pack associated with a world class kicker and this is not always necessarily going to occur. Essentially, they have not appeared to back their team to be more skilled than the other rugby playing nations over the last 10 years or so relying on the hope that they will be able to outmuscle opposition.

    The reason the Southern Hemisphere teams have generally dominant over the last 20 years is that they understand both how to try and outmuscle the opposition like england endeavours to do, but also combine this with trying to be far more skilful than the opposition at the same time. The speed of the support play and execution of the southern hemisphere teams is far greater than England. The Tuilagi break in the QF epitomised the English weakness. This was a perfect, clean line break, and usually a Southern Hemisphere would either score from it, or at least knock the ball on trying. Instead, Tuilagi was poorly supported and England didn't even look close to scoring. Even the Argentines did better when their number 8 broke through the All Black line in NZ-pumas quarterfinal.

    Everyone likes to bag the All Blacks for some reason, but long ago they realised that there was no way the All Blacks could consistently win by just trying to punch holes in the other countries in the world. They realised though that they could win by becoming faster and more nuanced in how they were playing the game. I am sure if you assessed the physiological capabilities of the average All Blacks team, Jonah Lomu aside, they are no fitter, faster or more powerful than many of the other major teams of the world. The thing that differentiates them is their inherent ability to read the game of rugby.. to move just that little bit faster and capitalise on opportunities. English coaching seems to want to nullify this sort of skill set.

  • Comment number 63.

    In 2003 I recall driving through a set of traffic lights with both my arms raised high in celebration as Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal won the World Cup. Stupid, and dangerous, yes to both, but understandable because it was so exhilirating to win with a team of all the talents. Move on 8 years, no arms aloft because no excitement- quietly sitting on the sofa as one awful passge of play mixed into the next one. (Mostly) pretty boy rugby stars incapable of tackling, incapable of kicking, with no idea of how to pass or to receive a pass. And the worst of it is that we instantly learn how gutted they all are from their tedious tweeting. The team was so embarrasing that we really dont want to hear from any of them again for some time while we try and forget how poorly they did.

  • Comment number 64.

    I think that english fans being respectful that wales have done better than them fair play, but the minority that cannot except this do need to look at what happened to their team at the RWC, they crumbled under the pressure.... you had an easy group yet struggled to come through it, well done on beating Romania by 50+ points if thats the highlight of your tournament you really should learn the game of rugby.

  • Comment number 65.

    Justin Davies (18) ''all headlines still revolve around the team on the way home'' bit of a dumb comment on a blog that is talking about Wales victory as much as Englands loss!!
    ''if Martin Johnsons men spent more time concentrating on what went on the pitch rather than off '' They did - it is only people like you who seem to be concentrating on the off-pitch stuff! The game was lost on the pitch to a better French side.

    ''if you can't put your country before a bottle of lager for a few weeks there is something seriously wrong with the mentallity of the whole set up'' - how many other teams gave up alcohol? None!!

    With the above plus your last comment (50), can we detect a severe chip on the shoulder and an overall anti-English sentiment?!

  • Comment number 66.

    I personally think that England have become so predictable in their play, that the other teams simply know what to expect and pick their game plan to nullify the forward dominated English team. Watching Wales, Ireland et al, you get more excitement and a greater appreciation of how the game SHOULD be played. As a Welshman I'm hugely proud of how our team has conducted itself, on and off the pitch!
    England are not respected by any other rugby nation after this World Cup, time for wholesale changes to repair the P.R disaster that is team England.

  • Comment number 67.

    Just what England need really. Their pathetic performance in the 1987 RWC paved the way for some major changes and hopefully this will do the same.

    If Johnson is smart he'll get rid of Wells and Smith and have a look at some of the homegrown coaching talent that's available in the Premiership.

    I watched London Irish carve up Worcester yesterday, admittedly with one the best (uninjured) Kiwi fly-halfs around (in the shape of Bowden - I'll wager Graham Henry wishes DB and Evans were home right now) pulling the strings. Their defence was a bit shaky at times but I'm guessing that will come right as the season progresses.

    What Wales are doing, teams in the Premiership are doing week in, week out. Getting the basics right, playing without fear. It isn't hard and this myth that "you can't play Test rugby that way" is exactly that....a myth.

  • Comment number 68.

    TeniPurist (59)
    Spot on chief!

  • Comment number 69.

    My issue with Johnson's regime is his lack of flexibility - and stubborn disregard of the evidence in front of him.

    Stevens, Moody, Deacon and Wilkinson should not have been playing. The whole world could see their failings in the games before France - why not the management team?

    Moreover, why after the team have been training and playing together for so long could they not do the basics right? They manage in the Premeiership and the Heineken Cup so what's different? The main difference is the Coaching set up.

    England seem to adopy a pattern that they think they should play rather than making use of the talent available. I'm not saying they would be world beaters - it would be nice to see them play to their potential.

    I have admiration for Johnson as a player, but i don't think England can afford to extend his education as a coach.

  • Comment number 70.

    I was upset to see england lose but nevermind - will try again in 4 years. Johnson is fine. This is typical of england fans in all sports. It must be the coaches is must be the players it must be the antics blah blah.
    Talking like this takes away any credit from france. Bottom line they played better. England won the second half but by then too late.
    France have beaten their old enemy. Well done to them. I see this a s a good thing for england. The team of 2003 set a bar and ever since then as england fans we expect everyteam to be like them. Well we are not the team of 2003 (5 six years it took them to reach their goal) the pressure is now off us to be finalists every time. Woodwards first world cup we went out in quarters did we drop him NO. Should we drop johnson HELL NO. We have mountains of talent ready to take the field and fill the gaps. The old guard must now step aside and let the new boys in (owen farrell, robshaw, for example) The old guard may have gone out on the losing side buy to me they are legends and should be treated with the respect they deserve and remembered for all the good they did not the few bad things.

  • Comment number 71.

    just a few things to pick up on really. England got the fundamentals wrong. I dont believe they know what style of rugby they want to play, they appear to be working on a fundamental style that is now outdated (ground and pound will only get you so far, especially when you dont have the personnel) and tinkering with the team in the knockout stage was a disaster. i cant remember when wilkinson and fllod last played together in a 10, 12 partnership.

    that said i believe there was a lack of leadership on an off the field. all of the off field incidents would have been laughed at several years ago and would have been forgettable if england had performed on the field. they just seemed to suffer from a lack of people who would bang heads and keep people in line. england have a lot of good players, many of whom will be around for some time, but they arent playing as a team. the old military saying 'tactics without strategy is the prelude to defeat' springs to mind. england are playing without a strategy and thats what they need to address. losing will be a good thing, if england learn from this

    in relation to wales, i was very impressed and proud of our boys in their systematic dismantling of Ireland. Hopeless optimisim is a welsh disease, but I am quietly confident that we can at least make the finals and if we play our A game I think we have a chance of going all the way

  • Comment number 72.

    England's back line can't run and pass at the same time, that is obvious.
    As some of you may know but the Tomkins brothers have agreed to switch codes from Wigan RL, these 2 along with Kyle Eastmond, and exRL acadamy stars like Owen Farrell and George Ford will make Engalnd a lot more mobile and dangerous in the future.

    The question English RU fans need to ask themselves, is why can't you produce talent from within your own ranks. To be poaching stars from another code aswell as other countries is a last resort for a sport struggling to recruit young talented children.

  • Comment number 73.

    52. & 59.

    Glad you are a lawyer because you will accept that there are always 2 sides to the story.....and FACT, as you would like to put it, is definitely anything but. In my opinion there were several players who should have never made the 30 in the first place that started the quarter final game. And had Tindall been fit he would have started too. But it still all comes down to 1 man. His management and selection of the squad and the match day 15 has been nothing short of incomprehensible and it has come back to bite him, fair and square, on his bum...and if he had a shred of humility and accepted his responsibilities he should fall on his sword. ..

  • Comment number 74.

    There are two big differences between England and Wales.

    Wales have leaders in their team who command respect. That Warburton is young does not matter because the team look up to him and he delivers on the pitch. It is telling that Warburton has remained teetotal during the RWC and before - whereas the England players...

    Wales have a balanced back row with a genuine open side and a genuine no 8. England have neither a good balance nor a real open side. Wales beat Ireland because they won the breakdown, they won the breakdown because Warburton got there quicker and was more effective than the Irish, the Irish were playing a backrow consisting of two blind side flankers and a no 8.

    Whilst I admit I expected Ireland to win I did say last week on the BBC site that part of me hoped Wales would win simply so that we can see the re-emgence of proper open side flankers as a major part of the game. England have been deluded since 2000-2003 for the simple reason they expected to have flankers in the Richard Hill mould. They forgot that Hill was a world class blind side, who just also happened to be one of the best 3 or 4 open side flankers in the world. Those type of players happen once in a blue moon.

    For all this Welsh "love in", there is a big danger of hype overtaking reality. Wales have serious weaknesses. Hooker, second row are problems (but I have to admit that Charteris, who is a player I cannot see as being international quality, had a good game), no 8 does not convince, the line out is still not good enough (although so much better than compared to 2 years ago) and Mike Phillips remains a controversial figure (marmite - you either love him or hate him) whose passing is not good enough but is very strong around the fringes. But the current Wales team have in Warburton, North and Priestland 3 of the young players of the tournament.

  • Comment number 75.

    I do wish we could return to a time when having a beer or 20 after a win and jumping of boats and cable cars was seen as fun and not disrespecting an entire nation. Rugby is at its best when played with this slightly stupid yet highly moralled undertone. Our national press are so obsessed with selling papers by blowing antics of sportsmen out of all proportion thanks to our beloved national obsession of following overpaid footballers around every inch of their lives.
    The reason for the rant - rugby is heading into rightwing professionalism where for some reason we think they are doing something for us and not for themselves. The more professional it goes the more individuals will look to stroke their own ego and line their own pocket.
    Bring back a bit of amatuerusim and lets see people play the game because they love it and not for the trappings. We may then see a few individuals come out of the shadows that we would put in a world XV. We will no doubt blame the background stuff for our players lack of individual ability.

  • Comment number 76.

    It would be hard to overstate how disillusioned I am with Johnson and the RFU. He is the archetype of the stubborn, conservative, unimaginative English coach who when faced with a choice between old veterans who enjoyed some success in the distant past, honest triers and his mates on the one hand; and unpredictable talents, youngsters and players from outside the "system", will opt for the former every single time.

    Tindall, Banahan, Deacon, Thompson, Cole, Moody - these are deeply ordinary players that would probably not make it into the squads of any of the other top 10 nations in the world, never mind the starting XVs. Yet most of them are automatic picks for England. Our players demonstrated once again on Saturday that they are unable to execute relative basic attacks without dropping the ball. All that money, all that training, all those resources - and they can't catch a rugby ball.

    When I think of the talent that England has had at its disposal over the years, but squandered - players like Strettle, Tait, Simpson-Daniel, Cipriani, even Balshaw - it infuriates me. None of them perfect players by any means, but all players with the ability to produce magic, and all players that have been cast aside, often on flimsy pretexts or after a temporary loss of form that every player experiences at some point. It's clear than Johnson would rather resign than even consider picking Cipriani - if he is still in charge in 2015 I wouldn't be surprised if Wilkinson is still in the team.

    The worst thing is that there seems to be no desire to change - only a meat-headed insistence that we will keep doing things "Our Way", results be damned. It's the worst stereotype of the unimaginative, inward-looking Englishman.

    Just compare and contrast with the Woodward era - whatever his shortcomings, Woodward was a man with imagination and vision who was not afraid to innovate, pick players on merit and give talent the opportunities it deserved. Johnson is the diametric opposite. But I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise - as a player, Woodward's game was about craft, skill and attack, and Johnson was a second-row forward. A great second-row forward, for sure, but not a man who could ever be expected to oversee the playing of dynamic, unpredictable, attacking rugby. Parachuting him straight into the England job was a contemptible act - "Johnno, solid chap, won us the world cup - he'll make everything all right" seems to have been the extent of the recruitment process.

    Not all the problems of English rugby can be laid at Johnson's door. But many of the failures of the England team can. He should be removed not because we lost a game to France, but because we are obviously making no progress whatsoever, and after three years it is clear that nothing is going to change while he remains. The problem is that there seems to be no one in a position to remove him - the ineffective Andrew continues to mouth platitudes while the hierarchy around him changes week by week and accountability and responsibility disappear into black holes. English rugby is a farce at the moment. There are men out there - Mallinder, Mallett, Hill, Halliday, Catt... even Woodward - who could come in and make a difference, but it's hard to see why they would touch Twickenham with bargepole with the RFU in its current condition. No end in sight. The position we find ourselves in is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 77.

    Fuzzy, the only question I ask myslef is why people who don't like a particular sport would constantly talk about it. You obviously watch a fair bit as well considering your comments about up and coming players.

  • Comment number 78.

    All this is a little harsh on the English team. Yes they were at times badly behaved but would the furore be as loud if they had beaten France? The problem is England have been lacklustre in victory over a weak pool group and lacked the character to raise the game for stronger opponents.

    It's a little unfair on Wales also to compair the two sides. Wales have planned and trained and aimed everything for this tournament (including giving up their summer to train in a fridge in Poland). As a result this Welsh side have been simply magnificent. Stop crying into your beer because of an overated English side and just enjoy the spectacle of this Welsh side. Cymru Am Byth!

  • Comment number 79.

    As with most sports ( cricket being current exception) England fail to live up to the hype that is written in the papers about their chances and these chances rightfully were good before tournament started as last 2 RWC we won n runners up so we should expect a final appearance at the least. What let us down was the behaviour of the players off-field ( some of which was from more experienced players ) and the lack of discipline instilled by Jonno on these culprits. Yeah they're entitled to relax but they're representing their country both on and off the field and all they done was prove peoples perception of English being Lager louts true. Its time for complete overhaul of the RFU and England coaching setup Jonno was a fantastic player and captain but that doesn't automatically make you a great coach he needs to learn his trade at club level before coaching any national side

  • Comment number 80.

    Firstly, yes Jonson must go, reliance upon previous "star" players and playing individuals out of position is enough for him to be removed.

    Secondly, yes I realise players are away for a while during a WC and need to realx but the antics of the squad was too much like their counterparts in doofball, Johnson should have addressed this more effectively but chose not too.

    These players should NEVER play for England again. Moody ( no captain/ too old), Wilkinson ( cannot pass/ kick, essentials for a fly half), Tindall ( s$$t), Deacon ( being a pal from Leicester should not ensure selection), Easter ( Too dynamic, sorry s$$$),

    I have watched England since the age of around seven and have never felt so sick with anger. I never expected them to win the WC but to play the way they did was embarrasing at best, laughable at worst. Why can they not pass or run angles? Why did the scrum appear much better after Cole was removed and two players played in their correct positions?

    Now is the time for youth to be given an opportunity, say goodbye to the old stagers and look forward to the 2015 cup.

  • Comment number 81.

    Even if we had beaten France, I think Wales would have been too good for us this weekend. They look like a proper unified team playing their best rugby for 30 years. Good luck Wales.

  • Comment number 82.

    From an occasional rugby watcher ( internationals !).

    I wont because I cant, comment on the technicalities of the games England played. But I am just as disappointed as other englishmen about getting knocked out. BUT lets get some perspective here... the oof the filed antics amounted to what ?

    One night out where one player was seen smooching a willing female in a bar, 3 players accused of a bit of back chat to a female hotel worker (and this only came to light 3 weeks after it happened cos she sold her story to a tabloid!).
    Then Tuilagi acting like an idiot.
    This is small beer that has been blown way out of proportion because of poor performance on the pitch.

  • Comment number 83.

    In reply to Carnage's post, Wales, as far as I'm concerned, did beat a southern hemisphere side. James Hook's penalty was 3 points stolen from Wales and would have won them the match. maybe officially they lost the match, but I think that match proved this Welsh team are mor ethan capable of winning this tournament. They have the confidence, self belief and most importantly, the excellent discipline. All the best Wales, Scotland are rooting for you!!

  • Comment number 84.

    Who would want to be a coach? Lievremont's decisions were infinitely more bizarre than MJ's but his team came away winners. Forget about who's playing 10 and 12. Big games like this are usually won and lost up front and we were second best at the key moments. Moral? We need a serious leader in the pack, like MJ or the French skipper.

  • Comment number 85.

    I can't believe some of the comments on here defending Johnson and saying you can't blame a coach for a team's performance. From the way England play you can easily tell that it is the coaching at fault. No-one has the courage to play with basic sporting instinct and everyone seems to be trying to remember what move they should execute in any given situation. I believe this is why there are so many basic handling and passing errors and penalties conceded. (Most of) these players perform with extraordinary skill week in and week out in the premiership and don't lose their skills just because they are wearing a white shirt. Mike Ford and John Wells have been coaching this team for over five years now; though the dark Robinson, Ashton and Johnson eras these two have been ever-present. It is time for fresh thinking in the coaching setup. Johnson was brought in as a manager of the team and his first call should have been to recruit a world-class coaching team with modern ideas and ideals to compensate for his lack of experience. Sadly he stuck with his 'mates' who were advocating an old Leicester-style playing strategy; one that worked half a decade ago but not now, but one that Johnson was familiar with and so adopted. This was compounded by some unbelievable selection decisions driven by loyalties rather than form. These two sets of decisions, and the stubborn reluctance to admit an error and make the changes that most of the England-supporting rugby public could see were needed, are the very clear reasons why this entire senior set-up has to be removed. As others have pointed out, however, this won't be easy given the appalling state of leadership witin the RFU. I have no doubt Rob Andrew will never make this ultimate (and brave) call and the only option would be for Johnson and his team to tender resignations, or to let the contract expire naturally in December. Will either of those happen? I can't see it...

  • Comment number 86.

    England were simply beaten by a better team on the day.

    England have had a bad tournament with key players half fit and others playing out of position.

    England also only came with one gameplan which only works if the back row are up to scratch.

    At least England played several youngsters who will have learned from the experience.

    As for the Wales' 'Extraordinary defence'. Yes extraordinary that the referees are not penalising them regularly for offside. Having said that both Ireland and New Zealand get away with the same defensive strategy something that has been going on for the last five years and needs to be stamped out for the good of the game.

  • Comment number 87.

    Wales now have a young leader they can rally around and have put in some brutal training sessions to give them the belief that no other team has worked harder to be here. As young guys this translates into a belief they can and should win their games. The great news for Wales is that a lot of these players will be around for 10 years. So to reach a World Cup semi final so early on in their careers, they will have high expectations of themselves and the team going forward.

    The reality check is that so far we've only really beaten a good Samoa side and an experienced Ireland side. If we can somehow defeat France and do it well then I think something might be on. The AB's are not the same without Carter. Now they're onto a third choice fly half and Mils Muliaina has retired too. With a bit of a stutter against the Pumas there must be some creeping doubt that history could repeat itself.

  • Comment number 88.

    The way I see it is that England just cracked under the pressure that was placed on them.

    In the last year they beat the Aussie, nearly got a grand slam and people starting looking at them, as if they could do something in the world cup (which they could of done had it been played in March)

    Wales on the other hand were on a losing streak and had poor form and nobody took any notice of them. They went away looked at their game and put right what was wrong.
    Wales always perform better when their the underdogs, the really test will come against France when they are many peoples choice to make the final.

  • Comment number 89.


    Very disappointed at the lack of coverage of the monkey-tennis.

  • Comment number 90.

    65. PragueImp

    No chip mate - just saying it as it is and how I did to my best mate who happens to be a Brummie. Been lucky to have been on a few Lions Tours and seen the difference between the management styles of Cotton, Henry and Woodward and have seen both the carrott and stick methods of management where carrott won, however, in 1997 the players behaved responsibly - who was captain? The difference here is that MJ seems to one of the lads not management and the players are going down the football route of thinking they are greater than the game.

    Yes the game was lost on the pitch but do you hoestly feel MJ's players have been 100% commited for the tournament?

    Yes players do have a beer but if you dig deep mate you will find that Sam Warbs and his lads have absatined for quite a while. Self-imposed by the way

  • Comment number 91.

    It's down to Martin Johnson, why England ubder performed and should be relived of his position. He has made errors all the way through the world cup.

    How Steven's kept his starting shirt is beyond me, fair enough play him in his normal position, as soon as Corbisaro cam on against Scotland and France we were a stronger unit.

    Thompson should never have started, Hartley may have his diseplinery flaws but is still a far better player.

    How Deacon ever got on the plane is the biggest travesty, the other 3 2nd rows are by country miles better players, and there are many 2nd rows in the premiership who are better than Deacon, such as Kitchener and Kennedy.

    Having no Open side, one of the key positions.

    Sticking by Wilko again another strange decision.

    Playing Cueto, he has had one good game in 18 months, there are better wingers as well.

    Anyone with half dedent knowledge would got England to the Semis.

    Do us a favour Jonno hand your notice in.

  • Comment number 92.

    Rubbish article but quite predictable. Hindsight makes things seem much more predictable than before the event. Didn't hear this journalist making these calls before the French game.

  • Comment number 93.

    What really bugs me is how England usually play much better in the second half. It's as though they go out with an inappropriate game plan and then lack the mental capacity to change things themselves, on the pitch, before the half time team talk.

    I suspect this derives from over-coaching. The players should be encouraged to be decision makers and play what's in front of them as the game unfolds, rather than relentlessly reproduce what they learnt on the training ground during the week.

  • Comment number 94.

    Agree with you Tom.

    Although some people saying that England only need to work on 10-13, others saying that England's squad/team wasnt far off that off Wales?

    Laughable. We crush you in every department. I'd probably only take Lawes, Foden and maybe Ashton (although Ashton would be on the bench).

    Genuine world class in Warburton, Roberts, Jenkins, Shane Williams. Lydiate is up there with worlds best 6's, an on form Phillips is hard to beat, and then players like Faletau, North, Halfpenny, Hook have potential to be world beaters.

    Struggling to find ANY in the England ranks, although Lawes has potential as does Manu (but he is Samoan...).

    England should have realised that this was an elite rugby tournament, not a holiday.

    England are lucky they lost to France, because Wales would have torn them to shreds.

  • Comment number 95.

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

  • Comment number 96.

    i dont think we can blame alot of this on wilkinson yes he didnt have a great tournament, but how could he or flood for that matter when most of englands pack were woefully bad, deacon and stevens were diabolical, moody wasnt playing well the only england forward who played well consistently was haskell, how can the backs work of slow stodgy ball, our backline is fine atm we have one of the best in the world when tindall is left out, but its so hard to attack with purpose when your forwards arent generating quick ball, robshaw should of been at the tournament, lawes should of started against france, tindall shouldnt of been there, flutey was a better bet, but now we need to start blooding young players, but keep a couple of the experienced old guard in wilkinson and moody, farrell, wade, alex gray, gaskell, trinder, sharples, twelvetrees, and dare i say it cipriani need to be playing regularly yes cipriani needs to return to england but he and george ford and owen farrel are the three future england star 10's, tuilagi needs a distributor at 12 so maybe farrell could be a solution, christian wade is looking so promising at wasps but we need to use them properly instead of stifling them, last november we looked like world beaters against australia because we played with freedom, like the welsh are now doing but we tightened up and its cost us, so its time to rebuild, but young players need wise heads to guide them

  • Comment number 97.

    Also MJ's world cup squad selection was hugely debatable. Whereas i dont think anyone can argue with Gatlands selection?

  • Comment number 98.

    Great article. I could not agree more with these comments. Once again it is an arrogance that has let us come unstuck and I must say that I feel our off -field behaviour is a huge indication of the attitude that prevailed on-field.
    We beat ourselves as we did in 1981 where we came away from our best game and tried something we had no experience with. It is in essence so Colonial of us, to arrive in this big parade and expect that we will conquer everyone. I respect your piece about staying with the old warriors such as Wilko et al, yet it is time that we respected the tournament conditions and the need for innovation and fearless passion that can help carry teams. As an Englishman myself, I do understnd the clear understated approach and reserve with which we were grown upon. Times have changed and it is a new game, and time for us to shed that old school thought and to adopt the ways of our colonists. Play a passionate, fun filled exciting game that is more about the players ability than his previous commitment to serving his country.
    Again no disrespect to Mr Johnson, but being the same age I feel that it takes so much more time to become a coach. So in conclusion I would say that we got it the wrong way round. We put experience before skill on the field and skill before experience at the coaching level.
    I hope that we can recover quickly from this stale experience and that we emerge with a direction that will take us to 2015 victoriously. I would love to see the nepotism stop and for once see England approach tournaments with the readiness that you so rightly described the Semi finalists have.

  • Comment number 99.

    Neither Ireland or England turned up mentally, thus flattering Wales and France, neither of whose performance would worry NZ or OZ.

    Wales are now at risk of believing the hype that they are world class - they are not that good and France will properly test them and beat them if France turn up as Ireland should have done.

  • Comment number 100.

    Corey Jane is a winger, not a centre.


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