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England Rugby: Leaked report exposes groupism, leadership failings

Last updated on: November 23, 2011 18:29 IST

England Rugby: Leaked report exposes groupism, leadership failings

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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.


Image: England players pack down during rugby World Cup training
Photographs: Getty Images
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'We just wanted Johnno to have courage to take action'

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Stalwart Mike Tindall was belatedly fined 25,000 pounds 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.

"I suppose we just wanted Johnno to have the (courage) to take action, especially after the Tindall night. He was too loyal and that was his downfall," one player was quoted as saying in the leaked report.

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.


Image: Martin Johnson
Photographs: Getty Images
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Clear alcohol policy on the cards

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

"We had meetings where 'values' were discussed but they felt like empty words," one player said in the report, while another added: "If it's the senior players leading drinking games or drinking until they can't remember anything, what example are the younger players set?"

It concluded: "This report is not setting out to absolve the players from making mistakes, as they surely did both on and off the field.

"In a culture of honesty and success ... players need to accept their shortcomings in what has to be seen as a golden opportunity gone begging."

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


Image: Graham Rowntree, England scrummaging coach
Photographs: Getty Images
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'I've never played well in an England shirt'

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"They'd had four years to develop a plan for the World Cup and it felt like they were doing it off-the-cuff in New Zealand," one player said.

"I've never played well in an England shirt," said another. "I try my best but I know the game plan doesn't suit me and I'm not confident because I don't believe in what we're following."

The report said: "It is clear that (the England) environment is vastly different to those at their clubs where players are trusted, assured of ongoing support and have good working relationships with coaches and team mates who share a vision in how they operate and in all aspects of their professional lives. This needs to be urgently addressed."


Image: England players practice
Photographs: Getty Images
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Money-minded players lack team spirit

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The three reports paint a picture of broken team spirit and of some individuals more interested in making money than representing England.

One player reported hearing another, after the quarter-final loss, saying: "There's 35,000 pounds ... down the toilet."

The player said: "That made me sick. Money shouldn't even come into a player's mind."

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 focussed on money than getting the rugby right."


Image: Lewis Moody of England
Photographs: Getty Images
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England to put its house in order for 2015 World Cup

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The publication of the report, and the extent of the problems within English rugby, are 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.

Still effectively rudderless at boardroom level, without a national team coach, and now rocked by a series of withering attacks, England will want to move decisively to put its house in order before hosting the next World Cup in 2015.


Image: Jim Mallinder, the Northampton director of rugby
Photographs: Getty Images
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