Stuart Lancaster (Gallo)
London - English rugby's search for
meaningful answers following the team's Rugby World Cup group-stage exit may
never get off the ground as reports emerge that players are reluctant to
cooperate against an increasingly febrile backdrop of recriminations.
Anger and disappointment remain palpable in
England following the hosts' humiliating 33-13 loss to Australia at Twickenham.
That defeat condemned them to a first
group-stage exit, prompting calls for a review into the debacle and for coach
Stuart Lancaster to be replaced.
Rugby Football Union Chief Executive Ian
Ritchie will lead the probe.
"It (the review) needs to be
comprehensive and we need to look at what we need to do to do better,"
"I think it is right to have an
insight (from the players). We've always done that and we shall continue to do
that, and we'll do it on a confidential basis. It's right to get a review on a
Among the issues expected to be examined
are: the elevation of rugby league convert Sam Burgess into the squad at the
expense of Luther Burrell; the balance of power between Lancaster and his
assistant coaches; and the clampdown on players' commercial opportunities
versus national team sponsorship obligations.
A similar process following England's 2011
quarter-final defeat in New Zealand pointed the finger at a number of senior
players, and called their commitment into question.
That report was leaked to the British
media, creating a legacy of mistrust and resentment which endures to this day.
British media on Wednesday said players
were wary of providing even anonymous feedback this time.
Both the Times and Telegraph reported
players felt betrayed four years ago, and that some members of Lancaster's
squad could decline to participate.
"There is likely to be some critical
feedback," the Telegraph quoted one source close to the squad as saying.
"I am not sure many of them will trust that it will be an anonymous
"So I think they will be guarded in
what they say, or just not take part."
The Rugby Players' Association is
monitoring the situation and is said to be waiting on the review's format
Lancaster says he has nothing to hide and
called on the RFU to be transparent with its findings.
Asked if he would be happy for the review
to be published, Lancaster said: "I wouldn't have a problem with any of
"It would be good if the review was
allowed to be done properly, privately, professionally and speedily, then
whatever happens, happens," he added.
The coach also said he would "wait and
see how I feel and how the RFU feel in the next couple of weeks", when
asked about his future.
Observers, pundits, fellow coaches and
former players are split over what action the RFU should take, with some saying
Lancaster should be allowed to build on the work he has done rejuvenating the
image of English rugby. Others feel he has had limitations exposed at the
Lancaster was awarded a new six-year
contract last year to see him through the next World Cup in Japan in 2019.
That deal was a concrete sign of confidence
in the coach, although the RFU did not likely foresee England becoming the
first World Cup hosts to fail to reach the knockout stages of their own