In Depth

Rugby World Cup: RFU faces 'open warfare' over England

Senior figures are 'keeping their powder dry' until the tournament ends as concerns over RFU review process grow

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As rugby fans south of the equator prepare for the World Cup semi-finals this weekend featuring South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Australia, there is growing anger in England over the host team's failure to even make the knockout stages of the competition.

England were one of the first casualties of the tournament, failing to emerge from the 'Group of Death' after losing to Wales and Australia. And amid a wider bout of soul searching among teams from the northern hemisphere, after none of them made it to the last four for the first time in World Cup history, the angst in England is the greatest.

"There is mounting frustration at every level of the game at the negative impact England’s failure at the tournament has had on both amateur and professional rugby in what was billed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow the sport," reports the Daily Telegraph, which reveals that insiders are predicting "open warfare" once the curtain has fallen on the competition.

"It is understood that several key figures across the game are 'keeping their powder dry' until the end of the World Cup so as not to overshadow it... before mounting a sustained drive 'to get to the root of England's alarming under-performance' since winning the 2003 tournament."

The Rugby Football Union has already anounced plans for a review of what went wrong, but there have been complaints about the inclusion of current RFU figures on the five-man panel. Now it has been claimed the pricess has been futher "compromised" by the appointment of Kevin Bowring to conduct feedback sessions with the players, reports The Times.

It explains that Bowring is "a close ally" of under-pressure coach Stuart Lancaster and "some England players are uncomfortable giving feedback to Bowring because he is regarded as an establishment figure and therefore not the filter that they would have liked to handle their opinions".

Some members of the England squad have turned down the chance to take part in the review, adds the paper.

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