Since I got back from Japan, people have been asking one question: what happened to England in the final?
The taxi driver, in my local coffee shop, even the early birds at Lambourne Golf Club where I play at dawn every Saturday. The whole country, like me, was disappointed, so what did happen against South Africa?
England need to debrief. They haven’t done that yet and it will fester both privately and publicly until they do. It needs to be brutally honest because they had the players to win that match. I have thought about it a lot and have a few points to make.
England's players look on following their devastating World Cup final defeat to South Africa
SCRUM AND FRONT ROW
You do not need to be an international coach or player to see the complete lack of power in the scrum as the main reason for England’s under-performance. But why did this happen?
I defer to my scrummaging guru with England, Phil Keith-Roach, in all things when it comes to scrummaging. He is the most knowledgeable person in that area and was my scrum coach in 2003.
Phil had been warning me for a long time that England were going down the wrong route at scrum time in placing too much emphasis on ball-handling props at the expense of hardcore scrummaging props.
He had looked at the World Cup draw and concluded that if England were going to be champions they would have to beat South Africa. That worried him.
He told me the Boks would pick three complete international front rows, with the six props all being the most powerful scrummaging props available. He was right. Furthermore, they backed that up by picking four world-class locks, all of them powerful scrummagers.
The England scrum is pushed back during the final at International Stadium Yokohama
Phil was invited to make his views known to Eddie but somehow his message didn’t get through. England were a long way down the route of basing their pack on all-singing, all-dancing running props — Kyle Sinckler, Ellis Genge and Mako Vunipola.
The hardcore scrummagers —particularly Harry Williams and Nick Schonert — gradually disappeared from the equation.
England then made the tactical decision to go with five props not six, believing Joe Marler could cover both tighthead and loosehead. On top of that came key injuries.
Dylan Hartley was an immensely strong scrummaging hooker whose value as a player was constantly underestimated and when he failed to recover from his knee injury that changed the balance and scrummaging ability significantly. Meanwhile, Mako had been injured all summer and was short of match fitness. He looked fast enough around the park but pure scrummaging strength only comes after a run of games.
It was a precarious situation for England accentuated by taking just five props.
Dylan Hartley's knee injury kept him at home and his absence hit the England scrum hard
Look at that 31 now and the minimal roles played by Rory McConnochie, Jack Nowell and Joe Cokanasiga and you wonder why at least one of those was not sacrificed for the more pressing need of another frontline tighthead prop.
England got this badly wrong and they