Rugby World Cup: England Are a Disgrace (Part 2)
I wrote the first article in the middle of the Georgia matches. The old warning signs were there.
What was different was that, in my opinion, the off-field shenanigans had fuelled the on-field indiscipline.
I hoped that lots of serious rugby followers would read it and somehow find a way to get the message across. I half-hoped that somebody in a position of influence would read it and get Johnson to jump all over it.
Frankly, taking on and off field, England have been the most undisciplined "professional" international rugby side I can remember since.... England and a bottle of aftershave in Paris in 1982...
It cannot help professional discipline, teamwork or on-field performance if England are allowed so much freedom off the field... no doubt this morning Wayne Rooney will be vilified for kicking the calf of a Montenegro player, but Delan Armitage makes him look like a saint... and Matt Stevens has made a wonderful comeback from his drugs ban...
And what about those who don't indulge in the boozing, the lewd remarks and the womanising? Shontayne Hape did nothing wrong in the first match, but presumably has been frozen out by his more irresponsible teammates and a manager who has frankly done nowhere near enough to punish the miscreants, and, having lost in the quarter-finals, allowed English "professional" rugby to become the laughingstock of the world.
How did we lose that quarterfinal? Guess what? Indiscipline and indecision.
How stupid does Johnson look when it emerges that he ordered a "kick-off" between Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood to determine the kicker?
And having presumably won it, Wilko proceeded to miss his first kick in the match to settle England down.
But how we really lost it was five penalties for indiscipline in the scrum/loose (sound familiar?), lost line-out ball and an avalanche of handling errors (sorry guys, had one too many of the pre-match drinks...).
While this afternoon St Helens and Leeds players will demonstrate their "flypaper" handling, England players couldn't catch a cold, ran around like kids in the playground and threw the ball aimlessly when they ran out of ideas.
So who has to pay?
Johnson must be sacked if he doesn't fall on his sword. He has looked unrecognisable from the greatest, most inspirational captain ever.
His entire coaching team must go. England have looked like they are painting by numbers for two years. Millions of rugby fans have been screaming at their telly throughout that period for quicker ball, so it has to be assumed that the players have been instructed to produce slow ball, thereby losing any momentum.
Almost everything England have done has looked ponderous and mechanical, as if they were playing with fear, not inspiration. Where are the players with flair that have dominated the Premiership? They've disappeared into the shell of an English white shirt.
But most of all, the battlements of the RFU must fall. Years ago, Fran Cotton and then Will Carling pleaded for change. In Sir Clive Woodward we got one of the best motivational coaches in the world and won the World Cup.
This time, when we needed his strength and influence in the hierarchy, the entire English RFU leadership dropped the pass so spectacularly that, added to this spectacular defeat, we look like a shambles to the rest of the rugby world.
So, bye bye, Martin Johnson. We knew you well once... hopefully, bye bye to all the nameless, faceless amateurs that run the whole shebang of English rugby.
England's players are a disgrace, but the whole state of Twickenham is rotten. Without wholesale changes throughout the English game and proper, professional leadership at every level, we face the same fate in a few years time.
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