England's attack coach quits
London - England's attack coach Brian Smith resigned on Thursday, a day after his position was fatally undermined by the anonymous comments of several players in their leaked "confidential" appraisals of the team's woeful World Cup campaign.
In keeping with the chaos surrounding the Rugby Football Union (RFU) at the moment, the news initially appeared on its official Twitter page only to be removed shortly afterwards.
Official confirmation arrived later on Thursday with a statement from the RFU saying Smith had stood down having decided not to seek a renewal of his contract.
Smith, 45, who played international rugby for Australia and Ireland, joined the England set up from London Irish in July 2008 as the only coaching appointment of then-new manager Martin Johnson, who also resigned last week.
Often criticised for failing to add a cutting edge to England's backplay during his three-year stint, Smith was always able to offer a resolute defence of their approach and delighted in providing statistics that he said proved the doubters wrong.
However, his departure looked inevitable after Wednesday's revelations in the Times newspaper that included one player saying: "He simply doesn't understand the game well enough" and another that "he was way out of his depth".
"I feel that England have made great strides in the last three years and although the World Cup was a massive disappointment, we have won 10 out of the last 13 games, including beating Australia back-to-back and winning the Six Nations for the first time since 2003," Smith said in the statement.
Johnson said: "Brian has brought a high level of coaching and a huge amount of commitment and passion to the job. If you look at our record in the last 12 months, and the fact that we have scored 37 tries to 12 conceded, it shows what an impact he has made.
"I want to thank him for what he has done for the England team and for the young players that he has brought on."
As the Times revealed, however, that was not a view shared by all the players.
"I would be delighted if he went," one player said of the Australian. "Our attack play was boring, uninventive, lacklustre, even schoolboy at times."
Other comments included: "He didn't offer anything. The players had all the ideas for strategy and all he did was write the players' ideas on the board."
"If we'd got to the semi-finals or final it would have papered over the cracks and the worst thing is Brian Smith would have stayed in his job. It might be a blessing."
Defence coach Mike Ford and forwards coach John Wells were also heavily criticised by the players but scrum coach Graham Rowntree was widely praised.
There has been speculation that Stuart Lancaster, the head of the second-string England Saxons, could take over the senior team in a caretaker capacity for the Six Nations championship which begins in February.