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Alleged coaching protocol breach adds to England's World Cup misery

Published 05/10/2015

Stuart Lancaster insists he has the final say when it comes to picking the England team
Stuart Lancaster insists he has the final say when it comes to picking the England team

The death throes of England's World Cup have continued with the news they are being investigated for an alleged breach of protocol by communicating with matchday officials during Saturday's 33-13 rout by Australia.

World Rugby are to probe the hosts over an incident involving two members of the coaching staff reported to have taken place in the tunnel at Twickenham at half-time. Sanctions include a touchline ban and/or a fine.

No names have been released, nor has the nature of the conversation, although England trailed 17-3 at the interval following a half in which their scrum had struggled, while Wallabies openside Michael Hooper has escaped punishment for a shoulder charge on Mike Brown.

"We're aware there is a discussion going on with World Rugby and England. We'll let the process take its course and we'll comment after that. I don't actually know what the allegations are," backs coach Andy Farrell said.

The investigation has come at a painful time for England, whose mood Farrell described as one of "mourning" following Saturday's exit from the World Cup after a mere 16 days, a fate decided by Wallabies' rampage through Twickenham.

The positions of head coach Stuart Lancaster and his assistants are to be reviewed and details are already emerging of disquiet within the playing squad over the influence of Farrell in selection and tactics and the management's determination to pick Sam Burgess.

When the notion of unrest was put to Farrell - who denied a charge of nepotism after his son Owen replaced George Ford at fly-half against Wales and Australia - it was met with a flat denial.

"Sam worked unbelievably hard and has given his all to team. It's unfair to comment on a situation like that. I don't think players would say this," Farrell said.

"A player was in a selection meeting now? Is that how the process works? The four of us coaches meet together and we have a discussion on selection.

"You all put your two pennies' worth in and then ultimately Stuart makes the call and we all buy into that, no matter what the discussions were beforehand.

"We have all been unanimous in selection and nothing has ever changed in the last three and a half years. The head coach makes the final decision and that's that."

Farrell offered an impassioned defence of Lancaster, who will spend the week preparing England for Saturday's clash with minnows Uruguay in Manchester. The team will be announced on Tuesday lunchtime.

"Stuart is a brilliant coach who has done wonders for this team and connected everyone back to this team," Farrell said.

"We have lost two games and people will try to define us by those two defeats, but what Stuart has built here was more than that.

"This campaign, this whole three and a half years under Stuart's leadership, has been built on rock-solid foundations.

"He has done marvellous things for this country. I thank him for the hard graft he's put in.

"He's the proudest Englishman and the hardest working Englishman I have ever met. It's been an absolutely privilege to work for such a caring guy.

"There's devastation in the camp. We feel like we have let everyone down. We are all mourning together, but Stuart's had a brilliant chat with the guys. We have got to man up. We have a job to do."

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