England’s Rugby World Cup calamity

Some said it was over when England threw away a 22-12 lead against Wales, but a dismal performance a week later against a rampant Australia sealed England’s exit from their home World Cup.

But what was to blame to for those two defeats?

England’s forwards, so impressive in the Six Nations and the RWC warm-up games, were quickly found out by the weight of expectation on them.

Against Wales, when trailing 25-28, they fluffed two excellent line-out opportunities deep in Welsh territory.

Against Australia, they were destroyed by the ravenous duo of David Pocock and Michael Hooper, who were quickest to nearly every breakdown and helped register a total of eight turnovers – mostly in their own half when England threatened to score.

It was also very obvious before the World Cup that England’s biggest weapon was their forward pack, but Australia coach Michael Cheika somehow managed to subvert that preconception and transform the Aussie pack into the dominant force on the night.

That leads to a big question – should England coach Stuart Lancaster have expected this tactic and prepared better for it?

The answer is yes, but not many sides could have lived with the performance of the Australian forwards last Saturday.

There is also another problem that occurred almost three years ago – the draw for the pool stage.

Seeding for the World Cup meant that a nightmarish group was always possible and it came to fruition when England, Wales and Australia were drawn together.

Back in 2012 they were ranked third, fifth and ninth respectively, but at the time of writing they are eighth, third and second.

Here lies the problem. The draw for the World Cup should be made later to greater reflect form, the pools should be bigger and there should be less teams. 14 teams in two groups would be ideal – as happens in the Cricket World Cup.

It’s not only bad for England that they’ve gone out in the group stage, it’s bad for the tournament, the English economy and the sport as a whole.

Estimations of England’s exit costing pubs, bars and rugby clubs £500m are being thrown about, and ITV will be counting the cost of dipping advertising revenues as less people tune in.

It would also have added an extra layer of excitement to the tournament had England had a good run, as the host nation is perhaps the most keenly followed team in any World Cup in any sport.

But no matter how you look at it, England rapidly need to improve.

Could they follow Australia’s example and pick players playing in France such as Matt Giteau? England could certainly have picked Toulon’s Steffon Armitage at flanker.

Unfortunately, while Lancaster is in charge his policy of picking players from English clubs will remain unless he performs a hasty u-turn.

Again, this leads us to another sizeable question – should Lancaster go?

With a contract running until 2020 the RFU would be digging deep into their pockets to get rid of him and, Lancaster being the fighter he is, has no plans to relinquish the reins yet.

There are a few contenders should Lancaster be relieved of his duties.

Some romantics are calling for Martin Johnson to play some part in the coaching setup. Others are looking at South Africa’s 2007 World Cup winning coach Jake White as a possible head coach.

But through all of this the RFU are keeping very quiet, which points to anything other than a swift resolution to England’s World Cup calamity.

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