The national media are looking for a scapegoat, but are holding their fire until after England’s participation at the World Cup is finally over. If England’s last match of the tournament was against a Tier 1 or a strong Tier 2 nation, the players would have the opportunity to claim a shred of redemption. A match against Uruguay, ranked 19th in the world, falls short. A resounding victory by England’s second string will merely show that, either the wrong players were picked in the matches that mattered, or simply that Uruguay aren’t very good.
It’s easy to look at the head coach of a failing side and put the blame on his shoulders, yet Stuart Lancaster deserves recognition for taking a principled stance against ill-disciplined players while also developing new stars. It is just a shame that Sam Burgess isn’t quite in that category yet. While changes to the backroom staff may be required to provide fresh impetus, Lancaster should stay at the helm and be allowed to prove his credentials by winning what will be a highly competitive Six Nations tournament in four months’ time.
For its part, the RFU will need to examine whether the organisation’s policies are working effectively. As the nation with the highest revenue in rugby, the sport must widen the net at grassroots level. It will also face growing pressure to reverse the policy not to select individuals playing for foreign clubs. In some respects it is an admirable stance, but it’s one that has undeniably been to the detriment of the national side.