Kay lays blame at RFU's door
November 23, 2011
Kay turned out for England in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups © Getty Images
Former England lock Ben Kay said he was "not surprised" to learn senior players had been criticised in the reports about the team's World Cup shambles leaked to The Times, but he was more damning of the role played by the RFU.
Kay, who played in the 2003 and 2007 tournaments and who now works as an ESPN analyst, said the change in attitude among some players had become evident by the time he won the last of his England 62 caps in 2009. "Some of the senior players never grew up," he told ESPNscrum. "They were the young cheeky ones in the 2003 and 2007 squad and some haven't really grown up. And if you look at leadership in that group of players it was sadly lacking throughout the campaign."
But he said the blame for a growing money-dominated culture had to be shared with the RFU. "Yes, Lewis [Moody] probably wasn't the right person to be questioning the amount of money they are being paid. But having been involved in the Team England Executive Committee I know in the past the RFU would give the players as little as they felt they could get away with and leave negotiations as late as possible to try and put the pressure on the players to accept.
"The RFU hold most of the cards and players only point of bargaining power is the refusal to take part in certain situations in which the RFU are making money out of the players, ie: not appearing for dinners, sponsors or as a last straw, matches.
"The players are an important part of an incredibly commercial operation and they deserve to be remunerated fairly and have discussions as to what that figure should be. The old adage of they should play for their country for free when the union is making a huge amount of money out of the situation, no longer runs true. Not many other professions would go to work for three months (including camp) away from home for a wage they felt did not reflect their worth to the company's bottom line.
"The Rugby Players' Association and the RFU obviously had different figures in mind which were a way apart. But for Rob Andrew to say it affected the players' preparation for the World Cup is absolute rubbish. It wouldn't have affected their preparations at all and if it did it was he who should have ensured an agreement was in place long before a couple of weeks before the tournament started. He is trying to find blame with someone else rather than looking at his role. It works both ways. It is wrong for him to have criticised everyone else.
"Having said that, it is very worrying if members of the squad felt other members of the squad were more motivated by financial considerations than the real goal they were all there for, performance comes first the rest should be trappings of success. Players feeling uncomfortable by the presence of others agents is unacceptable."
Kay went on to say the fact the reports had been leaked showed the depth of the malaise within English rugby. "I think some parts of the RFU are rotten from the top down and the fact that there are problems with the CEO and chairman have filtered through. It's always been the case that there have been certain people at the RFU who leak things to their pet journalists to get their point across and something has got to change. For the guys involved they were confidential. It means the next time honesty is required, it won't be given.
"The RFU have got to either clear out the upper management structure or at least find who is leaking these things out and they have got to go. They are making the sport in this country a laughing stock."
Kay also endorsed the criticism contained in the reports with regards to the coaching staff. "There have been question marks of the direction that some of the coaches were taking the players - especially some of the tactical system building. It's very easy to say that from an outsiders' perspective but now the players are saying it themselves. I think changes did need to be made to the coaching staff to freshen things up, but Johno is a fiercely loyal person and perhaps that played a part in his decision last week, however there were undoubtedly players sticking up for Johno but those comments don't make quite so juicy reading.
"I was part of Johnno's regime in the first couple of years where the England squad and was hugely impressed by the giant strides forward that were being made. He was having a great effect on team morale and the team's unity. The danger is sport is always lived in the moment and you win a couple of games and everyone thinks you should win the World Cup, lose a game and everything's a disaster.
"Post World Cup everyone was calling for Graham Henry to become involved with the RFU and four years before he had been knocked out at the same stage and one of his players had been arrested for causing damage while drunk, so people have short memories. The difference there was the NZRFU showed unequivocal support to him and look what they achieved four years later. England however now have to start from scratch, beginning with the unenviable task of finding someone who wants to lead the playing side under the conditions at the RFU."
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