England changes afoot after hosts are humiliated

The future of Stuart Lancaster as England coach is in doubt after his team's World Cup exit. Picture: Getty
The future of Stuart Lancaster as England coach is in doubt after his team's World Cup exit. Picture: Getty
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CHANGE is inevitable after England slumped to their worst performance in World Cup history, admits Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie.

The 33-13 rout by Australia – a record losing margin to the Wallabies at Twickenham – condemned England to becoming the first host nation to exit the tournament at the group phase.

The futures of head coach Stuart Lancaster and his assistants Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt are in grave doubt and the inquest will begin once the World Cup is over, although Ritchie refuses to outline a timescale or format for the review.

The position of Ritchie himself is equally precarious, having appointed Lancaster and taken the bold step 12 months ago of awarding him and his lieutenants new contracts to run until 2020 despite the failure to win any silverware of note.

When asked if there would be change, Ritchie said: “Absolutely. We’ve spent a lot of time looking forward over the last two to three years and now we need to look at what we need to do next.

“But we need to be clear that this is not a time for knee-jerk reaction. It’s not a time to rush into things.

“It’s a time for calm, rational reflection about what we can learn and how we can move forward.”

Ritchie, who addressed the media alongside a shell-shocked Lancaster at the squad’s Surrey training base yesterday morning, was asked if England’s elimination from their own World Cup just 16 days into the tournament marked the darkest hour in the nation’s rugby history.

“Yes, there is no denying the impact of what has happened. We were all aware of the importance and objectives of the World Cup, of which the team performance was one,” he said.

England’s nightmare scenario of a group exit was made possible by the 28-25 defeat to Wales, and the curtain came down after they capitulated to the dazzling ingenuity of the Wallabies.

It is Wales and Australia who will progress from the toughest group in tournament history – they meet for first place in Pool A at Twickenham on Saturday – while the hosts face an inglorious climax against Uruguay in Manchester.

A shaken Lancaster, who at one stage in yesterday’s briefing seemed close to tears, is adamant he will remain at the helm during a week of torturous preparation.