For all of Stuart Lancaster’s work on culture, who would have thought it would come crashing down like this?
Four years of painstaking work to create better rugby players and better men is rapidly disintegrating with senior player Mike Brown's revelation that trust within the setup is “completely shot.”
Even by the embarrassingly high standards previously set, this World Cup has been a calamity for English sport, and one that is still unraveling.
BECOME A WRITER
Do you have what it takes? Sign up today and send over your 250 word test article: https://gms.to/haveyoursay3
Coach Lancaster has resigned and Chris Robshaw’s position as captain has surely become untenable.
Brown’s comments are, however, arguably the most damaging episode to date. Though renowned for his tempestuous attitude, the Harlequins player sheds a very revealing insight into the complexity of England’s future: “It is going to be hard for me to call anyone team-mates until we meet up. Yes, it is going to be tough. Everything good is built on trust”.
England are seemingly now at a crossroads in their development. Though, the majority of their squad will be available in four years time in Japan, the potential for this World Cup to be a detrimental experience rather than a valuable lesson learnt, implies new blood is required.
Ideally, this change in personnel will start at the top with a new coaching setup, preferably from the southern hemisphere, however, the playing squad will also be in need of new impetus.
Tough decisions need to be made, particularly in the forwards. England’s backs hardly sparkled and Brad Barritt surely won’t pull on the white shirt again, but the forwards' indiscipline and incompetence at the breakdown were crucial in the losses to Wales and Australia.
James Haskell, Geoff Parling, Rob Webber and Dave Wilson are unlikely to feature, henceforth whilst No.8 Ben Morgan must show he has regained his form from 12 months ago, in order to hold off the challenge from Nathan Hughes.
In their place players such as Will Fraser, Maro Itoje, Dylan Hartley and Alex Corbisiero will be crucial in helping England turn over a new page.
Forging an identity away from the pitch has been high on Lancaster’s priority list since 2012, nevertheless, establishing one on the field, with a recognised style of play, must be top of the agenda for whoever leads England into their Calcutta Cup opener.
New players present the opportunity for new beginnings and whilst wholesale changes in the manner of four years ago aren’t required, England must be willing to be bold and evolve.
Continuing to play in the same limited fashion, negating their talents out wide will hinder this England team from overcoming their World Cup disappointment and a sense of excitement needs to be attached to the national side.
Though it may seem like England have hit rock bottom, the situation isn’t as dire as four years ago.
In individuals like Itoje, George Ford and Henry Slade, to name a few, England have players more than capable of overcoming this disappointment, and if, with the right coaching staff, they can harness this calamity then Brown’s comments will be quickly forgotten.