Reports savage England's World Cup campaign
November 23, 2011
Two men under fire: leaked reports have slammed England's attack coach Brain Smith (left) as 'indecisive, out of his depth, difficult to talk to' while Martin Johnson was accused of 'surrounding himself with those he was familiar with' © Getty Images
Leaked reports have painted a dismal picture of the background to England's shambolic World Cup campaign, with particular criticism aimed at the coaching staff and the attitude of senior players.
Three reports - by the Rugby Football Union's director of elite rugby Rob Andrew; the players' union; and professional clubs - have been leaked to The Times newspaper and they all paint a wretched picture of a side divided between senior and younger players, where discipline was almost non-existent, and in which the coaching staff commanded little respect and were slammed for their confused thinking.
The most damning of the three is the players' report, compiled by the Rugby Players' Association, which was based on anonymous interviews with more than 90% of the players and highlights a divide between the senior members and the rest of the squad.
Almost nobody - with the exception of scrum coach Graham Rowntree - emerges with any credit from the reports which were never intended to be made public.
Some players are accused of being obsessed with money, and it emerges they threatened to boycott an eve-of-tour dinner at Twickenham unless their demands were met. After being knocked out by France in the quarter-final, one player reported hearing another say: "There's £35,000 . . . down the toilet." The player said: "That made me sick. Money shouldn't even come into a player's mind."
Another said of his team-mates that the World Cup "was more about getting cash and caps than about getting better" on the pitch.
So savage are the comments about most of the coaching staff that it seems impossible they will retain their posts.
Dave Alred, the kicking coach, is criticised for always appearing to be organising his next game of golf. Brian Smith, the attack coach, one report concluded, "is the lowest rated of all the coaches … to see an international coach being described as indecisive, out of his depth, difficult to talk to, 'simply not good enough' is so damning, it is beyond belief".
Mike Ford, the defence coach, is criticised for consistently using catch-phrases when "half the time we had no idea what he was talking about", while of John Wells, the forwards coach, one player said: "There must be 20 coaches in the Premiership who'd be better. He missed serious detail in lineout play."
"At our club, there is a brutally honest policy," another player said. "If you mess up, you are bollocked and understand you have let your team-mates down. In England, there was a no blame/excuse culture where you swept things under the carpet. They'd had four years to develop a plan for the World Cup and it felt like they were doing it off the cuff in New Zealand."
Martin Johnson is painted as an honourable man who failed to impose enough discipline and had too much loyalty to people who did not deserve it. "The coaches were clueless: Johno was surrounded by the wrong people," one said. "He was a good guy who all the players respect but he hadn't got enough experience," another said.
It was felt Johnson was not hard enough in his dealings with Mike Tindall. "We just wanted Johno to have bollocks to take action," one said. "He was too loyal and that was his downfall."
The feedback from the clubs was that Johnson "had surrounded himself with those he was familiar with rather than those who had offered him real leadership".
The divide between younger players and the old guard was apparent with several claiming there were double standards in the way the two factions were handled.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year
With just two rounds left in the 2014 championship, the intensity cranks up a notch at Twickenham. Tom Hamilton previews the weekend's action
"I had a perfect record against England as did a few other Welshmen. England always seemed to bring the best out of us." John Taylor on the age-old rivalry
Are the margins between the teams in the Six Nations getting smaller year-on-year? Huw Richards gives some answers