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Poor decision-making cost Stuart Lancaster and England dear

Published 04/10/2015

England head coach Stuart Lancaster's future is uncertain after the team's World Cup exit
England head coach Stuart Lancaster's future is uncertain after the team's World Cup exit

As players gathered around Take That to embrace the acclaim of a sold-out O2 Arena, it was unthinkable that a mere 16 days into the World Cup England would be preparing themselves for an all-too familiar period of introspection.

The glitzy event was worthy of world champions, not a team about to suffer successive defeats to Wales and Australia which would condemn them to elimination before the pool stage was even complete.

It would not have been the stage of choice for Stuart Lancaster, although as usual Lancaster spoke well that September night, outlining the need to be more "front foot about being English" and his hope for success.

Instead, it was the idea of a union which invited the accusation of ill-advised hubris were England to bomb. And bomb they duly did, exiting their own World Cup with a whimper as the Wallabies amassed a record winning margin at Twickenham.

When minds drift back to the wasted opportunity of 2015, the hosts will be remembered for their rampant commercialism and relentless assault by hashtag rather than anything produced on the field of play.

Changes are inevitable once the inquest has been conducted with the futures of coaches and Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie all in grave doubt.

Lancaster looked a broken man when facing the media on Sunday morning, visibly tormented by his role in ushering in the darkest hour in English rugby history, and he must accept blame for a muddled selection picture and indecipherable gameplan.

The constant references to the All Blacks throughout his regime have grated - New Zealand are outstanding but theirs is not the only path to excellence - and why was rugby league convert Sam Burgess selected in defiance of all logic?

But the fate of Lancaster, a decent man, has been entwined with the brainlessness of players whose decision-making and composure was exposed against Wales and Australia, even if their commitment to the cause can never be doubted.

It is hard to see how Lancaster continues, even if Sir Clive Woodward and Graham Henry also endured shattering World Cup setbacks only to eventually emerge as winners of the sport's greatest prize.

An alternative role at the RFU might be appropriate, but Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree are in precarious positions, so too Ritchie who inexplicably handed the coaching trio new contracts until 2020 barely 12 months ago.

Uncertainty awaits over the coming weeks and the fallout may be vicious, although the spirit of the camp bears little resemblance to the anarchy of four years ago.

It will eventually be resolved, but please, no more hashtags.

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