Rugby Union

5 of England's most disastrous sporting moments in the 21st century

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5. Cricket World Cup 2007

On the back of an Ashes whitewash, England headed into this World Cup with limited hopes. They were duly knocked out in the super-eights after a thumping defeat to South Africa.

England’s early exit was far from the main headline though with captain Michael Vaughan blaming their poor form on the infamous ‘Fredalo’ incident, which saw Andrew Flintoff stripped of the vice-captaincy for his drunken antics.

Coach Duncan Fletcher subsequently departed the team and England’s terrible form at the Cricket World Cup has continued ever since.


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4. Rugby World Cup 2011

As Six Nations champions and with a navigable route to the semi-final, many were expecting a strong showing from Martin Johnson’s men in 2011. Results on the field were disappointing with England knocked out 19-12 by France in the quarter-final. However, it was events away from rugby that made this campaign such a calamity.

Labelled ‘Mike Tindall’s stag’ by some Australians, England’s tournament encompassed midget-tossing, allegations of lewd comments made towards a female member of staff against Chris Ashton, James Haskell and Dylan Hartley and Manu Tuilagi jumping off a ferry into Auckland harbour.

Coach and England legend Martin Johnson later admitted that the “game got dragged through the mud” and was sacked by the RFU after the campaign.

3. Ashes 2013/14

Having won three consecutive Ashes series, Alastair Cook’s men headed down under hoping to inflict further pain on their arch enemy.

However, a Mitchell Johnson-inspired Australia had other ideas and a second Ashes whitewash in six years followed. Key batsman Jonathan Trott left the tour after the first test with a stress-related condition, whilst spinner Graeme Swann sunk England’s ship further by retiring three games in when the series had been settled.

England’s misery was deepened with defeats in the final two matches before England’s highest run scorer across all three formats was exiled from the team, due to a dossier compiling the batsman’s wrongdoings.

The Surrey player was far from blameless, however, and the Kevin Pietersen saga was a highly damaging series of events, which the current England side have only just recovered from. Coach Andy Flower subsequently departed, to be replaced by Peter Moores, who had already failed in the job after succeeding Duncan Fletcher and did so once again on his return.

2. Football World Cup 2010

After a highly promising qualification campaign, South Africa 2010 looked set to be the stage for England’s ‘golden generation’ to finally fulfill their potential.

Events certainly didn’t transpire that way starting with centre-back John Terry being stripped of the captaincy in February amidst allegations of an affair with teammate Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend. Terry’s replacement Rio Ferdinand was subsequently injured by Emile Heskey in training, all before the tournament had even kicked off.

In a very straightforward pool, England could only muster a 1-1 draw against the USA, thanks to a howler from Rob Green and a 0-0 stalemate against Algeria, which led to Wayne Rooney berating his own fans after one of the worst World Cup games of all time.

The Three Lions recovered to defeat Slovenia 1-0 and qualify but were subsequently hammered by a rampant Germany 4-1, amidst rumours of Fabio Capello’s dictatorial regime and lock-in training camp.

1. Rugby World Cup 2015

Incredibly, only a week since the tournament’s finale, and with further accusations sure to surface, poor performances on the pitch combined with damaging stories off it, makes this the worst of all.

At their home World Cup England crashed out within 15 days, becoming the first host nation to be knocked out before the quarter-finals in the tournament’s history.

Inevitably, allegations of disharmony within the squad have surfaced, many of them centred on Sam Burgess’s inclusion over Luther Burrell. Less than a year since his conversion from rugby league, Burgess was included in England’s 31-man squad and though his performances were solid, his presence proved to be divisive in the camp.

The former centre has already left rugby union to return to rugby league with the South Sydney Rabbitohs after allegedly making contact with his club the day after England’s exit.

With facts now coming out that kit-man Dave Tennison gave stock advice to players which led to members of the squad losing thousands of pounds has added further calamity to a campaign which should see both captain Chris Robshaw and coach Stuart Lancaster lose their positions.

Though the 2015 Rugby World Cup was a raging success, England missed a huge opportunity to raise rugby’s profile throughout the country and, with the world watching, the hosts became the laughing stock of the event.

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