As England's beaten boozers return home from a disastrous world cup performance in New Zealand it is time for a harder look at what went wrong. And the buck must stop with the coaching staff from top to bottom. Martin Johnson's loyalty as a captain might have been immeasurable on the field but as manager, off it, it has caused huge problems.
There appears loyalty aplenty but no logic. First the England manager persisted all last season with Shontayne Hape as inside centre when it was obvious to nearly all that what was needed was a balance rather than two back row forwards in the centre, which is what England was left with with Hape playing alongside an ageing Mike Tindall. Yet Johnson persisted until the pre-world cup warm up games when Hape was jettisoned and Tindall moved to inside centre, a position he does not even play in at club level.
Johnson's first captain was the extremely willing but internationally mediocre Steve Borthwick at lock forward and this World Cup series we have had Louis Deacon another plodding foot soldier when compared to the far more athletic Tom Palmer at lock. Yet Palmer lost out. Deacon's performance against France was lamentable.
Jonny Wilkinson was at his best when linked with a talented ball playing inside centre such as Mike Catt or the excellent Will Greenwood. Wilkinson, for all his attributes, never bosses a game being too introspective and dependent on the assistance of confident ball-playing partners. This World Cup he had no ball players until the last game against France when Toby Flood was brought in to replace Tindall, whose off field misdemeanours probably cost him his place. The selection was disastrous with Wilkinson having his worst game of the tournament, probably his worst in any World Cup competition he has been involved in. Quite what Brian Smith, in charge of the backs offensive plays, has been doing with this squad during their long months together is hard to discern.
England forwards were little better, sadly missing the injury prone Sheridan's input at loose head where Matt Stevens was played and comprehensively outplayed against both Scotland and France. Corbisero appeared second choice loose head but was also overlooked. John Wells, another former Leicester man, has had a long run as forwards coach and it is time it came to an end.
The problem is who is to fire them if they will not resign. Rob Andrew, whose role is increasingly hard to discern picked Brian Ashton and fired him as coach after 18 months and employed Johnson whose experience of rugby coaching was nil. It seems unlikely that Andrew will now sack Johnson and the RFU hierarchy at Twickenham is in such a deplorable mess there is no one able to get rid of Andrew.
The system, if it can be called that is a shambles. Millions invested, regular sessions with players yet the England team looks like a rudderless ship. A new captain is needed to call the shots on behalf of the players and Toby Flood and Ben Foden immediately spring to mind as players who at least would take a creative line in proceedings rather the continual hump and grunt of this current England set up. Johnson was a magnificent player but a novice manager who cannot be enjoying his role given on and off field performances by his team. Being an honourable man he should do the honourable thing and resign. As should Smith and Wells. Andrew should most certainly tend his resignation or else be sacked but with such turmoil amongst the blazers at the RFU, who is there to sack him??