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Johnson to blame for England’s lack of direction

October 14th, 2011 by · No Comments · Features

Manu - in at the deep end...A lack of off-pitch decorum and on-field success mark this as one of the bleakest periods in the history of English rugby

Manu Tuilagi was among a group of England players when he leapt off the stern of the ferry Superflyte from Waiheke Island as it approached its berth on the Auckland waterfront on Sunday night, a misdemeanour for which he was picked up by harbour police and fined about £3,000. Plenty of disillusioned rugby fans back home will be wishing that the rest of his team-mates had jumped off with him.

A bit of individual freelance lairiness by an energetic 20-year-old at the end of a longish (but not long enough) tournament might be understandable in isolation, and easily pardoned. But the collective misadventures of the England party in New Zealand add up to a catalogue of behaviour that cannot be ascribed to coincidence or blamed on the appetite of the media.

Martin Johnson’s inability to ensure that his players behaved with reasonable decorum – or at least discretion – during a trip that should have been the highlight of their professional lives has been matched by his failure to give their existence a meaning on the pitch. Taken in conjunction, these two unhappy phenomena mark this as one of the bleakest periods in the history of English rugby.

The England players are not the only ones to have courted opprobrium during this tournament. One of New Zealand’s Sunday papers splashed at the weekend with the tale of Cory Jane and Israel Dagg, two All Blacks wings, “out on the town” on Thursday night, a mere 72 hours before their quarter-final against Argentina. Jane, the story alleged, had been seen smoking and drinking heavily in a North Shore bar.

Graham Henry, their coach, and Richie McCaw, the captain, both voiced their disapproval after the victory over the South Americans, in which Jane played a full part. The difference, perhaps, is that the All Blacks have been doing their job on the pitch, thus keeping their side of the bargain with the public who, directly through ticket sales and indirectly through sponsors, pay their wages.

England’s Rugby Football Union, the sport’s richest governing body, is likely to face questions from its own sponsors in the wake of the poor publicity attracted by their players’ activities during this showpiece tournament. If, that is, the sponsors can find anyone in authority to take their call, given the shambolic state of a governing body which went into the tournament without anything resembling stable or credible leadership.

By those standards of professional negligence, Tuilagi’s little escapade is merely the pimple on the face of an exhausted and demoralised body. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & ConditionsMore Feeds

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