England RWC report leaked

2011-11-23 11:29
Rob Andrew (Gallo Images)
London - Leaked reports into England's Rugby World Cup debacle paint a picture of a squad in meltdown and expose schisms and leadership failings greater than even their dismal performance had suggested.

A trio of reviews by the Rugby Football Union's director of elite rugby Rob Andrew; the players' union; and professional clubs, had not been intended to be seen by the public, but were obtained by the Times newspaper.

The London-based newspaper revealed the reports' contents on Wednesday in a grim account of ill-discipline, greed, division and mismanagement.

England's campaign in New Zealand ended in abject failure with a 19-12 quarter-final loss to France last month, but more tellingly, it was characterised by poor discipline and poor decisions throughout, both on the pitch and off it.

Stalwart Mike Tindall was belatedly fined £25 000 for his drunken behaviour during a night out in Queenstown, but the ramifications of that now-infamous evening sent shudders through the squad, with coach Martin Johnson criticised in the reports for failing to discipline players involved.

The players' report, compiled by the Rugby Players' Association, was based on anonymous interviews with more than 90 percent of the players, the Times reported, and it highlighted a divide between the senior members and the rest of the squad.

It made a series of recommendations - all centred on discipline - including more accountability, a stricter regime and a clear alcohol policy.

The entire coaching set-up came under fire in the players' report, except for scrum coach Graham Rowntree, who was praised.

Other "lowlights" in the report were:

- Attack coach Brian Smith is described as "indecisive, out of his depth, difficult to talk to and simply not good enough". He was also accused of looking to the Romania team for ideas. "When you start copying Romanian moves you know you're in trouble,” said one player.

- One player suggested defence coach Mike Ford "hasn't moved on since 2007. In fact he's regressed".

- Forwards coach John Wells “missed serious detail in lineout play. There must be 20 coaches in the Premiership who'd be better", said one player.

- Johnson, who resigned last week, was attacked for failing to deal properly with the fallout from the drunken night in Queenstown, which saw Mike Tindall belatedly fined for his conduct. The players union' report said there was "a lack of action which reflected his inexperience. Therefore primarily he must bear considerable responsibility for these failures". One of the players added: "I suppose we just wanted Johnno to have the bollocks to take action, especially after the Tindall night. He was too loyal and that was his downfall."

- Captain Lewis Moody, who has retired from Test rugby, was criticised heavily for dealing with his agent during the tournament. "There was too much contact with agents, who could be distracting," a player said. "Moodos was the worst. Players should have waited until after the games/the tournament, not be discussing deals a day or two before a match. Moodos might be able to separate commercial stuff and playing, but it distracts other players and isn't the right example to set."

- A complaint by one player about a colleague's reaction in the dressing room after the quarterfinal loss to France. "There's £35 000 just gone down the toilet" was the offending phrase. The complainant said the response "made me sick. Money shouldn't even come into a player's mind."

- Accusations that senior colleagues indulged in drinking games and poked fun at those who committed wholeheartedly to training.

- Complaints from players about a lack of tight security. "It was a mistake not to have any security people like in 2003 and 2007," said one senior player. "This time we had two old fellas and one guy who was rumoured to have told someone the night out incident in Queenstown involving Tindall would be worth £100 000 from a newspaper."

The Times quoted Rob Andrew's report as saying: "It is very disappointing that a senior group, led by the captain Lewis Moody, disputed the level of payment for the World Cup squad which led to meetings with RFU executives.

"I believe this led to a further unsettling of the squad just before departure which included a threat by the squad not to attend the World Cup send-off dinner, at Twickenham. It suggested that some of the senior players were more focused on money than getting the rugby right."

The publication of the report, and the extent of the problems within English rugby, is likely to do little to help attract a top-notch coach to replace Johnson, who stepped down earlier this month.

New Zealand's World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry earlier this week ruled himself out of the running with Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder tipped by insiders for the job.


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