England rugby players 'cared more about money than sport'

Nov 23, 2011

As secret documents reveal dysfunctional team, will Rob Andrew wriggle free again?

PRESSURE is mounting on Rob Andrew (above) to quit as the RFU's director of elite rugby after the leaking of secret documents which suggest the England rugby team's World Cup campaign was doomed even before the players flew to New Zealand and got embroiled in their well documented shenanigans off the pitch.

Three separate reports on the shambles have been passed to The Times. They "help to build a picture of a hopelessly fractured team spirit among players who were at odds with each other and with their coaching staff," the paper's rugby correspondent, Mark Souster, reports today.

For some of the players, money – in the form of match fees and endorsements – was clearly more important than success on the field. The documents show that the captain, Lewis Moody, led a protest over pay. As a result of the ensuing stand-off, players threatened to boycott a pre-World Cup at Twickenham "unless they could secure guarantees about their commercial activities".

Even with the tournament underway, money remained as issue for some. When England were knocked out by France in the quarter-finals, one player was heard saying: "There's £35,000... down the toilet."  Another player who overheard the remark is quoted as saying: "That made me sick. Money shouldn't even come into a player's mind."

Commenting on the findings of the three reports, Mark Souster writes: "The picture that emerges of a dysfunctional team and an elite rugby department lacking vision, leadership, strategy and expertise is damning."

The situation is only partly resolved by the departure of Martyn Thomas, the acting chief executive, and the resignation of coach Martin Johnson, says Souster.

As Johnson's press conference a week ago, Rob Andrew refused to contemplate quitting. "Such cowardice in the line of fire cannot be allowed to continue," says Souster. "It is incumbent on the new chief executive when he takes office in the new year to take stock and then take action. Andrew cannot be allowed to wriggle free this time."

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