Newspapers slammed England’s rugby team as “Les Miserables” after they lost to old enemy France at the World Cup on Saturday, but were full of praise for a battling Wales team that won through to the semi-finals.
The Sunday Times said England, the 2003 champions, “could not possibly have played worse in what is supposed to be the biggest tournament in the sport” after France beat them 19-12 in a quarter-final in Auckland, having raced into a 16-0 half-time lead at Eden Park.
“Au revoir ... To England’s World Chumps,” its headline on the sports pages said, adding “Time’s Up Jonno” — a call for the exit of manager Martin Johnson, England’s victorious captain eight years ago.
“Dear God, that was awful,” wrote Stephen Jones, the Sunday Times’ long-serving rugby correspondent. “Not just this quarter-final, won easily by a French team who had appeared dead on their feet, divided and without hope, but the whole farce of England’s four years [since the 2007 World Cup, where they lost in the final to South Africa].”
In the Observer, former Wasps and England forward Dean Ryan said England’s running game against France was “suicidal.”
He said Johnson had created a template for “conservative rugby” that he then abandoned, adding that to do so in a quarter-final “looks like madness.”
“England were not comfortable with the feel and tempo of an all-out running game and it showed,” he said.
“The experiment could have been inspired or suicidal. It ended up suicidal,” Ryan said.
Meanwhile, the Independent on Sunday’s back page led not on England’s failure, but on Wales’ success, with a huge picture of Welsh scrumhalf Mike Phillips taking to the air before scoring a try.
The Sunday Times also hailed “Wonderful Wales” after they defeated Ireland 22-10 in Wellington to set up a semi-final against the French team in Auckland this Saturday.
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