Wednesday 13 December 2017

England rugby stars more focused on money at World Cup: report

A NUMBER of England's World Cup players were "more focused on money than getting the rugby right", it was reported today in three leaked reports that lay bare the inside story behind the shambles in New Zealand.

The Times today published details of the confidential reports compiled by the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Players' Association, who surveyed players anonymously, and the Aviva Premiership clubs.

As well as a number of players concerned about money, the coaching regime also came in for strong criticism.

England were eventually beaten by France in the quarter-finals, equalling their worst ever performance in a World Cup after a campaign dogged by controversy.

Team manager Martin Johnson is reportedly criticised for failing to instil discipline following a series of off-field incidents, with one unnamed player quoted as saying "he was too loyal and that was his downfall".

Captain Lewis Moody is criticised for reportedly leading a delegation of senior players to dispute the amount of money the squad were being paid for playing at the World Cup.

The Times quoted RFU director of elite rugby Rob Andrew's report as saying: "It was very disappointing that a senior group, led by the captain Lewis Moody, disputed the level of payment for the World Cup squad.

"It led to meetings with RFU executives in the last few weeks before departing for NZ. This led to further unsettling of the squad.

"Some of the senior players were more focused on money rather than getting the rugby right,."

The reports leaked to The Times were never intended to be published. The Professional Game Board, which runs elite rugby in England, are due to make recommendations based on the reports' conclusions to the RFU board on November 30.

England's World Cup was dogged by incident from the start, with widespread media coverage of a players' night out following a meagre win over Argentina in their opening match.

Mike Tindall, who is married to Zara Phillips, was pictured talking to a woman on CCTV footage from Altitude Bar, which was holding a "Mad Midget Weekender" and was one of a number of squad members who appeared to have drank excessively.

His actions later incurred a £25,000 fine and saw him dismissed from the elite player squad - sanctions the centre has appealed.

Next, the RFU felt compelled to suspend assistant coach Dave Alred and fitness coach Paul Stridgeon from the match against Scotland after the pair were found to have illegally changed balls during the victory against Romania.

Johnson was later forced to express his anger at Chris Ashton and James Haskell for their conduct towards a hotel maid - for which the pair were fined £5,000 at the end of the tournament.

Manu Tuilagi, one of the few on-field successes, was another to find trouble, receiving two fines during his time in New Zealand - the first for wearing a sponsored mouthguard and the second for diving off a harboured ferry in Auckland.

Although no immediate decisions were taken in the aftermath of the team's exit at the hands of France, Johnson announced his decision to step down as manager on November 16, giving a press conference in which he took responsibility for the team's efforts.

Professional Game Board chairman Ian Metcalfe said: "It is disappointing and frustrating that confidential reports submitted to the PGB have been put into the public domain when all involved were promised that their views would remain private for the ultimate goal of improving the England team.

"The reporting of selective elements of those documents is also counter-productive to that aim.

"There will naturally be a wide range of views surrounding the Rugby World Cup and the PGB review was set up to take into account all feedback from all parties. There has been a clear process that has been followed which will culminate in fair and balanced recommendations to the RFU Board of Directors on November 30."

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