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So I'm away from the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand for just one game and England crash out in unconvincing style against a French side that even before Saturday's match had been playing some uninspiring rugby, and even faltered against Tonga just last weekend.

Perhaps I could easily point to jinxes, bad luck omens and black magic of my presence leading to the downfall of England but that would just be lazy. In truth, it's not a massive shock. England had been unimpressive even though they topped Pool B comfortably with four wins.

Each game came with a must-try-better element to it. Aside from the crushing of the Romanians, I never truly left each game happy for the next game. I just hoped each game would yield an improved performance, but against France they failed to deliver.

The French raced into a 16 point lead early on with two tries from Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard. Martin Johnston's new midfield formation of Flood and Wilkinson failed to work, with poor passing and failed kicking the hallmarks of the duo's performance.


The French took advantage with the errors in the breakdown with Yachvili slotting two penalties away.

England battled back late with tries from Northampton's Ben Folden and Mark Cueto, which offered a glimmer of hope, but in truth the French had the upper hand throughout the match.

In the second half England lacked drive and the creativity which was lacking in previous games - the only outlet seemed to be the bulldozing style of Manu Tuilangi.

So England were outplayed by an organised French side, and ultimately key choices of personnel in crucial games and off-field antics affected their World Cup campaign. The buck stops at Martin Johnston and I wouldn't at all be surprised if he is indeed relieved of his duties after a "full and frank" review from the RFU.

The issue of off-field antics should perhaps be the one of most concern, and this could arguably have been one of England's most scandalous, tabloid-fuel tours in living memory.

I understand the issue of building team morale, and the occasional pint of 8 is a strong element of English rugby culture, but surely when the aim is to win the World Cup, a spot of midget hurling and backpacking flirting can wait?

Then onto the team selection dilemmas faced by Martin Johnston, it seems ultimately the choice of the once-talismanic Wilkinson was one error too far.

While strong in the tackle, Wilkinson was poor in the kicking department. It's the area he needed to be firing on all cylinders in if England were to have any chance of lifting this year's Rugby World Cup. However, his goal kicking and positional kicking were poor throughout the tournament.


Perhaps the writing was on the wall after his first match against Argentina when he missed four penalties in a row. Johnston even recognised his error of his ways, but instead of dropping Wilkinson for the France match, he brought Flood in for Tindall in a move that ultimately backfired.

So after a tournament which promised so much for England, it ended in a flat, uninspiring performance. After each previous match post I often signed off with a familiar "must try better for bigger tests" but the English have no more tests and are now set for the long ride home.

The sweet chariot will rumble on regardless, even if it is without the likes of Johnston, Wilkinson or Tindall but now we have the Six Nations to focus on, and perhaps a change of style ahead of the 2015 World Cup.