The airline catering team loading the plane for England's long flight home today from the Rugby World Cup should put only one dish on the menu: humble pie. Lashings and lashings of it.

To a man, whether they be Welsh, Irish, Scottish, French or even English (and there are plenty of the latter, I can assure you), England's humiliating World Cup exit was greeted with delight at the weekend. That was a measure of the widespread disdain felt for this England outfit.

It was a good thing to see the back of a squad that stained the fine name of English rugby and the game itself. An English press photographer on a late Saturday night bus home summed up the England party.

"Arrogant, bloody arrogant," he said. "You'd turn up for a scheduled 11 o'clock training session and be told they'd decided to train at 10 that morning. So you couldn't take any pictures, couldn't do your job. They didn't care. That sort of thing was going on all the time."


The arrogance of too many of the players was tolerated for far too long by a management that must now come under intense scrutiny for this abysmal failure of a World Cup campaign.

Or rather, it would do, and heads might roll, if there was anyone with any authority left at Twickenham to make such a call.

But the Rugby Football Union is in such turmoil off the field, with so many officials either sacked or departed of their own volition, that making decisions about their failure could very well be described as a bit rich by those at the sharp end.

England have been abysmal because they never recognised their own failings and shortcomings. After all, nothing so blinds a fool as arrogance.

To collapse to such a modest French outfit in its own state of internal disarray took some doing on England's part. But they managed it with something to spare.

As ever, England have had more money than sense. They remain the wealthiest of all the individual unions, their coffers fuelled by the idiots who have rushed in recent times to fill Twickenham to see an England side that anyone with sound mind and decent judgment would not have crossed the road to watch.

Under the influence of a coaching unit forged in the scrums, rucks and mauls of the Leicester club (Martin Johnson, John Wells and Graham Rowntree) they have never really embraced the possibilities of the "new" game, one match against Australia at Twickenham last November excepted.

Instead, they resorted to type and bored the pants off everyone in sight. And they have got their comeuppance.


Worse still, England have been comfortably the best side at this World Cup in the field of bad behaviour. Chucking dwarves around, juggling large boobs, sinking so much booze certain individuals were awash with the stuff - were these the behavioural standards of professional sportsmen?

It became clear some time ago that Wales have put in place for this World Cup a regime of iron discipline, and all their players bought into it. Warren Gatland alluded to it after his side had reached the semifinal at Ireland's expense: 5am training sessions, workouts that made players physically ill.

The only reason certain England players might have been physically ill was because they were trying to drink their way through half the New Zealand beer industry's annual output. And to think they laughingly regarded themselves as professionals. They were poorly managed and played poorly.

What has gone wrong with English rugby is a familiar tale. Too much money paid to impressionable young men whose heads became too big to get through the door, too little accountability and too much licence for them to pursue their own activities at this tournament.

Yet not all behaved abominably. You can bet your life the likes of Jonny Wilkinson didn't have time for such nonsense.

As far as I am aware, players from Ireland, Wales and France have not been out drowning themselves in alcohol.

Other countries managed to control their players; England didn't.

Sorting out English rugby is a microcosm of trying to work out where the whole country went wrong. It will take Englishmen of far greater wisdom and vision than any we have seen down here for this World Cup to come up with viable answers and solutions.