Cracks widen as England turns on itself

The Wallabies’ humiliating defeat of the old enemy has turned splits in England’s ranks into a full-blown chasm.

England’s early exit – the first by a host nation in the pool stages of a Rugby World Cup – has turned ugly with current and former players engaging in public spats and training ground bust-ups leaked.

Crucially, none of the splits were evident until the Wallabies turned the tables on England’s scrum and dumped them from the World Cup with a 33-13 victory on Saturday.

Now, as Michael Cheika and his charges ramp up their plans to become the first nation to win a third World Cup title, the knives are out in the England camp.

High-profile dual international Sam Burgess has worn much of the criticism, and has been dropped from their match-day 23 to face Uruguay in their final pool game on Saturday.

Burgess’ treatment has even sparked a Twitter trend, with the hashtag #BlameBurgess encouraging users to vent about their daily problems while sarcastically pinning the blame on England rugby’s scapegoat.

But Wednesday’s revelations that assistant coach Mike Catt and fringe playmaker Danny Cipriani engaging in a heated slanging match prior to the tournament indicate more serious underlying issues have plagued their campaign.

Local newspaper reports suggested Catt twice told former Melbourne Rebels playmaker Cipriani, who subsequently was omitted from coach Stuart Lancaster’s 31-man squad, that he would “end your England career”.

That was denied by an England rugby spokesman, who said: “Danny and Mike were involved in a robust conversation on the training pitch following a misunderstanding around a training drill instruction. Both shook hands afterwards and the incident played no bearing on selection.”

Equally worrying were reports that players will not contribute to an enquiry into the disastrous campaign.

Veteran back-rower James Haskell has engaged in heated Twitter rows with former England champions Neil Back and Lewis Moody, highlight the divide between this squad and the teams that came before them.

In response to a post by Back, a World Cup-winning flanker, about his use of a selfie stick following the win over Fiji in the World Cup opener, Haskell unleashed.

“I wasn’t even playing! You’re so old and out of touch your eyes dont work,” he posted, before attacking Back’s motives of driving book sales.

“I hope your book sales go better than your coaching.

“You were one of my childhood heroes, yet the general negativity towards myself and the team is appalling.

“You talk about my self promotion yet u have released a sensationalist book just to make cash.

“Rule No.1 – never meet your heroes.”

England’s 2011 campaign ended in a quarter-final exit in New Zealand, which itself led to a post-mortem enquiry and ultimately the sacking of head coach Martin Johnson.

Mike Tindall, who was the captain of the 2011 team, hoped there wouldn’t be too much blood spilt as the RFU looked for answers this time around.

“I hate the fact there is always a witch-hunt after,” he told BBC radio.

“They have gone out, and have the tag of having the worst result England have ever had in a World Cup. That is going to burn any of those players.

“Fans say there are hurting from it – I guarantee players are hurting a hundred times over.”

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
Stay up to date with the latest sports news
Follow our social accounts to get exclusive content and all the latest sporting news!