Times exposé reveals the core of England’s demise

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.

55 thoughts on “Times exposé reveals the core of England’s demise

  1. Honestly, the second I read the 35k quote, my brain said Haskell. Automatic association. Doesn’t mean it’s right though, could be anyone.

    1. That was my initial thought too. But what context was it used in?

      I thought the comment about the senior players drinking was sent in by Jonny W from Toulon.

      1. The full player quote:

        “To hear one senior player in the changing room say straight after the quarter-final defeat ‘There’s £35k just gone down the toilet’ made me feel sick. Money shouldn’t even come into a player’s mind.”

        Not sure about the Haskell assumption. He’s loaded already.

        THIS sounds like a Haskellism though (not included above):
        “There wasn’t enough emphasis on conditioning.”

        But, to be honest, the one quote (again not included above) that made my eyeballs pop out of my head on cartoon springs was this one:
        Steve Borthwick was a phenomenal leader. He was so knowledgeable about the game that I’m sure he intimidated John Wells.”

        1. Not saying it was him, for some reason that was the first link I made. Borthwick nearly went him but didn’t feel it was relevant enough to the RWC.

        2. I would be surprised if its Haskell, he has taken a significant pay cut in pursuing Super rugby, and missing out on England duty over the next season is a bad move if you are commercially driven – no doubt he will be well rewarded for his time in Japan though.

          As much as Gunshow is a comedy figure, he loves playing the game, and i respect him for choosing to broaden his horizons by going down under for a season.

          Wouldnt surprise me if Armitage sadi that, he is pretty notorious among agents for thinking he is a Premiership Footballer

        3. Interesting quote about Borthers there. Maybe this is why he was dropped as captain. Not because he was out of form, but because he knows more than the coaches.
          He’s certainly been playing well for Sarries, and captained them to a Premiership title.

          1. Yeh I mean he might talk really well and know the game inside out but whats the point if you play 2nd row and can’t tackle or ruck?

  2. Confirms what many believed really. The squad was clearly deflated, players picked on reputation, Wells and Smith clueless.

    Trying to focus on the positives however, yet more praise for Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood and good to see that not all our coaches were incompetent as Rowentree seemed to back the players.

    Whoever made the comment about “£35,000 down the drain” should be given his P45 in my opinion. I’d kill to be given the chance at just one cap playing for England, even against a minnow. What that shirt represents appeared to fall on deaf ears for some and the minute that happens they should be banished from international rugby. Shameless.

  3. Who released the confidential report?

    Did Rob Andrew try to deflect attention on himself by putting it all back to the team?

    Is there a tenable position within the RFU other than that of Graham Rowntree?

    1. Andy, I have to say that I’m with you as to my first question – who released this confidential report and why?

      Doesn’t matter so much what it said – I don’t think many people on this blog will have been overly surprised by most of what has been released, although there are a couple of genuinely cringeworthy comments.

      Personally I’m not surprised by the revelations over money as this is a football type cancer that has been creeping into the game since professionalism and unfortunately the deals between the RFU and the clubs have never properly addressed pay to players while on England duty (as far as I know). I guess (if I am right) that this is another thing that Andrew should have sorted out!

      1. Someone in the RFU was obviously so livid/disappointed/upset with what they read that they leaked it to Souster. Only a matter of time till we find out who it was.

        1. Doesn’t seem like it is the RPA. That leaves the Premiership and the RFU for the leak. What would the Premiership gain from it – so we’re back to the disfunctional RFU. Oh dear!

          Is it possible to sack everyone at the RFU and start again?

          I’d be livid if I was a player who contributed to this and it was leaked. The players won’t help next time, that’s for sure!

  4. I’m reluctant to get dragged into commenting on a number of partial quotes that make up next to nothing of a 100 page document with just the juiciest most press-worthy comments coming out. Don’t get me wrong, we get an idea of what the report says, but I’d much rather just see how the overall report is perceived and the resultant actions. If people are going to leak a report, I wish they’d put the whole thing up on the internet so people can get real context, not juicy quotes. But of course, they wouldn’t get their money from that, much better to sell it to the Times and get some money from them. Anyone else find that hypocritical?

  5. If these reports are correct then it sounds to me as though our coaches possibly had a bit of Samoan coaching fever?! Perhaps they should fined too? Although, I’m not too sure that 100 pigs would cut it in this country!
    On a serious note though, coaching aside, I think it’s about time the players started treating England as a privilege and not a certainty. These players are representing the most cynical fans in the world and all of whom would give their right arm to represent their country in the sport that we all love so much. Perhaps they should start showing some appreciation and prove to us all why they have been selected as the very best in their position to represent the team and every fan in the country on the world stage.

  6. I am speechless.

    ON a brighter note, i think we have a really talented England team coming through, to be led by Chris Robshaw, whats his best position?

    what we lack is a decent 7 and hooker. otherwise we are looking ok.

    RFu needed a shake up, we a getting one, albeit rather dramatic.

        1. I think your money’s safe Stuart. One or ‘tother maybe but not both. I have my hat ready to eat just in case!

    1. Yes, thought that shaking the tree to get rid of the rotten apples was the accepted thing to do, not to cut the whole thing down!

    2. Robshaw’s best position is probably blind-side but he can play 7 and has been doing so for Quins to accomodate the human wrecking ball that is Fa’asavalu

      He has been doing rather well there

      Re hooker – Joe Gray at Quins is also looking like a decent prospect

    3. Does Tom Wood normally play 7 for Saints? Saull is a good 7, but doesn’t play every week because Sarries have Burger. As for hooker, Joe Gray and Dylan Hartley are probably the best two options at the moment. Thompson has had his day, and should retire along with Mears.

  7. What these comments say to me, is what several of us have voiced as opinions on this very website. That most of the coaches are useless, and the senior players take it for granted they will be selected, even if they have been injured for a whole season, and haven’t played more than twenty minutes in a Premiership match. All in all I’m not really surprised by any of it. But hopefully now, the useless coaches will go, the old worn out greedy players will go, and we’ll get some new enthusiastic coaches who actually want the job, not just the money, and some fresh exciting young players who are honoured just to wear the shirt.

  8. I agree that the whole report needs a public airing now. Unfortunately The Times will seek to squeeze as much out of it as possible. Can the whistleblower not just post it online somewhere and anonymously post out a link. I don’t want sensationalism, I want to know whether there is anyone at the RFU who should keep their job, including the players.

  9. My immediate thought on the money comment was that it was someone like Steve Thompson. Not sure why, he just strikes me as the type, slightly illogically given that he paid back his insurance money.

    I would say that the headline which seems to have been seized upon is the money issue but in my view that is the least of it. The trust between the coaches and the squad are more important and the breakdiown of that is the biggest issue here. For all we know the players may have had a point with the money question, the RFU is suyuch a farce at the moment I wouldn’t be surprised if their offer was derisory. But the main point is that the question of money should have been sorted before they even met for camp at Pennyhill Park. That it was allowed to drag on until right before the tournament just shows the abject lack of leadership.

    It’s all a massive shambles really and it starts from the top, as demonstrated by the fact that this has been released at all. Whoever released this needs to be removed from his position pdq. Do the Times have a responsibility to expose their source? They are making it seem like they are doing the whole game a massive favour by publishing all this so it’s a bit hypocritical. But their interest is just selling newspapers.

    Unfortunately these have been released by someone with an agenda, whether it is to make it seem like everybody else’s fault or to take the heat off themselves. Any idea who I may be implying here (again, no evidence here it was just my kneejerk reaction)?

    1. “Do The Times have a responsibility to expose their source?”

      I believe they do but only if legal proceedings are sought. If anyone feels they have a case for defamation against News International or the The Times concerning this story they may have to reveal their source. However, it could be argued that knowing the name of the source would do little to change the argument, so effectively, it is down to the newspaper or the person in question to come forward. Given the issues at The Times and News International re: hacking etc. and taking into account this sort of history it is unlikely to be them, so that leaves the whistleblower.

      If said whistleblower has signed a confidentiality agreement with RPA they could well be in breach of it so could get stung that way. Either way, they feel it was the right thing to do.

      By the way, a list of all those who work at RPA if anyone was interested.


    2. I actually resent the money comment. Three reasons, firstly the opinion comes from Rob Andrew who is politically inclined to put blame on the players and not on himself. Secondly, Lewis Moody as captain and representative to the Players’ Association would be expected to bring up issues regarding players getting a fair wage. This is a professional sport now, we can’t pretend that money has nothing to do with anything. Thirdly, the statements as they’ve been presented say very little about the context.

      1. I do think Moody has had unfair press on this. Agree with you that Moody has to be involved. He is one player that all England supporters can say categorically left everything on the pitch (including some body parts!). He should never have been captain in my mind but he you can’t qustion that to him, it was all about giving 100% (110% for anyone who watches football!) and he would have done so whether he was paid or not.

          1. Maybe News International hacked Rob Andrew’s phone and got lucky that he happened to then phone his wife and read the entire report to her. So it’s bloody Murdoch to blame, and he’s an Aussie so can we find a round about way to blame Stuart Dickinson again? I always enjoyed blaming Stuart Dickinson.

  10. Great bit of marketing by the rfu, as they try to attract a world class coach to provide leadership to get the team out of this morass….

  11. I really wouldn’t be suprised if Andrew was behind the leak – the quotes we have seen do a good job of putting a lot of the blame back on the players and coaching staff, but at the same time all this falls under his remit, and I can’t see how he can stay on.

    On a side note the releasing of all this confidential info is surely going to lead to a huge amount of distrust amongst the squad as they try and work out who’s slagged off who

  12. It would be interesting to match up individuals’ comments in the survey to those who publicly praised Johnno.

    None of this is really a surprise, but it still makes a shocking read. To me the comments on the apparent incompetence of the coaches are most interesting. Poor approach to fitness and conditioning; long, boring, aimless training; complete lack of attacking game plan. Woeful stuff. I know Johnno was far from a visionary, but I would at least expect him to have got them fit. It used to be that being at the absolute peak of physical fitness was the price of admission for England.

    So a complete clear-out of the coaching team (with the possible exception of Rowntree) is now inevitable, which is certainly a positive. I just wish we could get on with the program more quickly than waiting until after the 6N. I’d like to see Andrew interviewed about this – seems to me that he has ultimate responsibility for all of this, beyond just removing the head coach.

    Is this it then, have we finally reached the low point? Can it get any more embarrassing than this?

    1. Don’t the newspapers normally save back further juicy details for the next few days issues to make sure everyone keeps reading the paper! Could be worse to come!

      I guess the resignation of everyone at the RFU (except Andrew who would never resign!) leaving the game headless (more than it is already!) and in disarray would be probably count as a lower point, but at least it wouldenable everything to be rebuilt!

  13. Interestingly I am beginning to think that it is someone who wants to heap more pressure on Andrew who might be behind this, rather than the man himself. However I don’t care as long as he goes!

  14. Just seen a headline that the RFU are going to launch an enquiry into the leak. Haven’t laughed so much for ages!

    Also just read some good comments by Foden – surely he has to be captain. He’s the only one who talks any sense.

    1. Staggy – missed the Foden comments – what did he say? One of the silver linings I guess is that some of the players were so appalled by the behaviors of others and the incompetence of the coaching staff. At least it shows some of them have the right attitude.

  15. just seems to me that the whole needing to get rid of all seniors is not necessarily the case. just from how much someone like Thompson went through to get back to playing for his country, seems to me he gives a shit.
    and I don’t know why but I can’t help think that some of the laziness comments are from young players who didn’t play through the lean years when England got pumped. I can’t see anyone who played before Johnson’s tenure being under any illusion about how hard you have to work. neither can I see the injury candidates not working hard. people who think that their natural talent will get them everywhere, that seems to me like people who wouldn’t train hard.

    1. I’m sure you’re right. For example, academic as it is since he’s retired, it does seem that Moody had the right attitude in the most part. But it also seems that Tindall was one of the worst culprits.

  16. Greetings from NZ … if you think things have been rough for Martin Johnson then spare a thought for the Manu Samoa manager Tuala Mathew Vaea, who was not only sacked but has been fined 100 pigs by his village over allegations of bad behaviour at the Rugby World Cup, according to a recent story in the New Zealand Herald.

    The newspaper says that in a report to the Samoan Prime Minister last month, captain Mahonri Schwalger criticised Mr Vaea’s behaviour during the tournament.

    The report claimed Mr Vaea “did not want to be there at most times” and “spent most of his time drinking”. It also said that he treated the World Cup like a holiday, and was often out playing golf.

    1. However it seemed to me that the players went to the RWC to play, not to lark around. That is a big difference.

  17. The fallout continues. Brian Smith has now resigned. In typical RFU fashion they tweeted the news, only to delete the tweet making everything very confusing for everyone. You couldn’t write it.

  18. Just read that Mr Andrew has just REITERATED that he will not resign! Anyone see any similarities with the captain of the titanic.

  19. Ultimately it’s the players who can blame themselves. You must understand that most of these people have been surrounded by “yes” people their whole careers. To simply start blaming the coaching staff and a few blokes who got leery on tour is selfish and typical of people who have risen to this level and feel untouchable. There are no scapegoats on the field, except the referee. And a good coach never slates his players publicly or even in the strictest confidence. Otherwise he would never have picked them anyway. Johnno is a good man, from a good family with more integrity than all of his former team put together. Where things went wrong? England don’t play as a team and thats not the fault of the coach. Thats the fault of the players. Johnno doesnt say before every game “play crap”, these are grown men being paid to do a job that they have been training in since childhood. Playing hundreds of matches within a team, surely they should be able to make it work with supposedly the best player/workmates in the country.

  20. If the next head coach doesn’t start his tenure with the phrase “this is to be a new era” I will be very sad that he missed out on one of the best opportunities for a cliché ever

  21. It’s an amazing news story but these are the highlights of outspoken, frustrated players out of hundreds of different answers that were meant to be confidential. Last time I filled in a confidential questionnaire I was punchy as well. If you’re in the squad and not playing, of course you’ll have a pop at the coaches.
    That said, I am up for the inevitable clear-out (bar Rowntree).
    There’s always a hierachy in a team and that’s inevitable, professional rugby is changing fast and I feel for the Tindall’s and the Moody’s as they are closer to older era behaviour. It’s a shame that they didn’t judge the famous night out better but they were just doing as they’ve always done. I was in Marseille when we beat the Australians at the previous world cup and there was plenty of partying but things just weren’t reported back then. The sort of journalism that took place during the world cup appeals to the lowest sense of interest and I think there should be press legislation to prevent chamber maids being offered large sums of money to sell a story for the papers.

    1. The thing I don’t get is that there IS legislation to prevent fatuous claims being made in the press and I cannot understand why the RFU’s legal team has not pursued that route.

      Annabel Newton should be prosecuted for slander. And, it would appear, blackmail, as today’s revelations claim her lawyers demanded £15k “hush money”.

      I would say also that the newspapers presenting those stories as fact ought to be sued for libel also, but no doubt they’ll have been couched in semantic caveats, eg “it is claimed that” and the old Have I Got News For You staple “allegedly”.

      What really gets me is that apparently, the RFU’s legal/PR people put huge pressure on Haskell-san et al to pay Newton off. Good on them for sticking to their convictions and refusing to cough up. And how fortunate that Haskell was vain enough to have “Haskell-cam” running at all times!

      By the way, anyone who’s seen the photos of Miss Newton, can very easily conclude that she was making shit up. I mean, honestly, who’d want to sexually harass that? Just look at her!

  22. Remember Will Carlings 57 old farts comment?
    Has anything really changed within the RFU? I don’t think so, Rob Andrew at the press conference was so patronising to the reporters, I think his attitude is endemic & part of the problem at the RFU.

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