Some mornings, you just wonder where the stories are going to come from. Last week was the same, before rumours and confirmed tweets sent out the message that Martin Johnson was to resign later that day. One week on, and The Times through Mark Souster have revealed the contents of the report that is to be sent to the RFU from the Professional Game Board. It is far from pretty.
The three reports, at over 100 pages, explicitly reveal the levels of greed and lack of control in a camp completely divided. By all accounts, when going through the reports the overwhelming reaction is that the senior players let the whole squad down, through disgusting behaviour that left England’s younger stars in disbelief. Whilst France’s bitterness was on the surface for all to see, England’s, in what must be said was in a very English manner, was concealed, resulting in the bitterness that can be found in player’s accounts of the tournament.
In a sense, the most unsurprising revelation to come out of the report is how poor the players felt training both leading up to and during the World Cup was conducted. Descriptions of players feeling “fresh on Day 1 but drained and overcoached by Day 4”, along with feeling that training was “not hard, but long. Players felt they had not trained hard enough and so went back to their club gyms at the weekend to work harder” shows a complete mis-understanding by the coaching staff of what the players needed. “The man-management was terrible” is one quote that will haunt Johnson forever.
Long have we spoken on this website about the need for younger, fitter players to be selected over elder statesmen, and yet the report reveals they were purposefully overlooked. “Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood proved themselves to be the fittest, the strongest and played out of their skins in training. But they were overlooked for ‘senior’ players.” Despite months of lengthy training where the coaches used “a million drills we didn’t need”, on arriving in New Zealand, there wasn’t “…a game plan, any structure or any clear idea of what we were going to do in attack. It was astonishing.”
From then on, it only gets worse. On a two page spread of quotes, the following selections scream at you:
“Pre-season was a f***-up.”
“The coaches really hate each other.”
“I really can’t believe we lasted as long as we did in the tournament. We played like crap.”
“There was a no-blame/excuse culture were you swept things under the carpet.”
“It was amazing to see how some players who couldn’t play due to an injury were doing backflips into the swimming pool and playing golf.”
“There was a culture where it was not cool to train hard. What happened to the culture where we were training to be the best in the world?”
“The players demanded increased tournament fees and threatened to boycott the pre-World Cup dinner.”
“There’s £35,000 just gone down the toilet.”
“If it’s the senior players leading drinking games or drinking until they can’t remember anything, what example are the younger players set?”
“He was the best of all the coaches. He’s ahead of his time.” [on Graham Rowntree]
“I would be delighted if he went. He was way out of his depth.” [on Brian Smith]
“His analysis was like a white wall of jargon. Half of the time he had no idea what he was talking about.” [on Mike Ford]
“Out of his depth. There must be 20 coaches in the Premiership who would be better.” [on John Wells]
“We had kicking issues, yet every morning who do you see swanning around in a polo shirt about to play another round of golf?” [on Dave Alred]
“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.” [on Martin Johnson]
From of all of the above, the following conclusions can be made. None of the coaching staff can be retained, apart from Graham Rowntree, and with Johnson now gone the rest will follow. Many, if not all, of England’s supposedly senior players, need to be “retired”. This seems to have already happened with Mike Tindall, and it will be interesting to see who follows him out of the back door over the coming months.
Along with those departures, how Rob Andrew can stay in the job following this is beyond me. He is employed to give the senior side solid foundations and direction, neither of which has been achieved.
The squad needs equality. Regardless of how many caps you have, no one is special. Blame cannot be shifted or ignored. No indiscretion is beyond punishment. The new captain must be a true leader, through words as well as actions.
It’s a lot to take in. Let us know what you make of it.
by Ben Coles
Lewis Moody has released a statement on this morning’s revelations, which can be read here.
Damien Hopley, the head of the Rugby Players Association (RPA) who conducted one of the leaked reviews, has also released a statement here.