The buck does not stop with captain Moody

English rugby finds itself at its lowest ebb.

Haunted by the unbridled joy of 2003, its inability to build a legacy from that golden hour has precipitated years of frustration that have culminated in a damning indictment of how the sport is run, managed and played at the very top.

Powerbrokers and players came out in defence of their reputations yesterday following the leak of reports into England’s calamitous World Cup campaign.

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The combined dossier of damnation runs to more than 100 pages, three separate reports which lay bare in gruesome fashion what unfolded before and during a World Cup campaign riven by controversy that has sullied the once good name of the sport.

“Rotten culture at the heart of England rugby”, “England divided” and “Failings that ensured end of the world for England” are headlines that should send shockwaves reverberating around the country.

So, too, remarks by players – albeit anonymous – such as “the man-management was absolutely terrible”, “the coaches really hate each other”, and “you sense for some players it was more about getting cash and caps than about getting better”.

The reports are so widespread that it is difficult to know where to start, but the main points appear money, management, media, coaching, training and security.

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It is the allegations that money meant more than the honour of playing for their country that will so offend the honest folk who play for nothing on rugby pitches up and down Yorkshire and the entire country every Saturday.

Lewis Moody, one of five survivors from the victorious 2003 campaign, yesterday admitted he made mistakes as England captain during the World Cup but insisted he never put commercial gain before his rugby.

Moody has reportedly been criticised by England’s elite rugby director Rob Andrew for leading a delegation of senior players that disputed the squad’s World Cup payments.

The 33-year-old Bath flanker is also criticised by one unnamed team-mate for having too much contact with his agent during the tournament and setting the wrong example.

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The criticisms of Moody were contained in two of the three reports into England’s shambolic period in New Zealand.

Moody said in a statement: “I put my body on the line for the lads, the team and England every time I played and anyone who has watched me play knows that I give everything on the field and have always prioritised rugby ahead of everything else, including financial reward.

“Captaining England was, and remains, the ultimate honour for me and I accepted that honour knowing all the scrutiny that came with it.

“I am confident I did the job to the absolute best of my ability but if some of the players thought that was not enough I will have to learn to live with that.

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“I have always been my own fiercest critic and have already been honest that there were some things I wish I had done differently at the World Cup, but I have learned from the experience and hope others can do the same.

“I have only ever undertaken personal commercial activities in my own time and I’m comfortable I got that balance right at all times. Where I had to be involved in commercial conversations with the RFU it was as captain, working with the RPA (Rugby Players’ Association), representing the best interests of the players, not for any personal gain. I do not think anyone who knows me would think differently.”

The buck does not stop with Moody. The conduct at pre-season training, the way off-the-field controversies were handled, the lack of discipline enforced by Johnson are all areas exposed.

Johnson is reportedly criticised for failing to instil discipline following a series of off-field incidents, with one unnamed player quoted as saying “he was too loyal and that was his downfall”.

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The confidential reports were compiled by the RFU, the RPA – who surveyed players anonymously – and the Aviva Premiership clubs. England were beaten by France in the quarter-finals, equalling their worst performance in a World Cup.

RPA chief Damian Hopley has demanded an investigation to track down the source of the leaked reports.

Hopley said: “I am absolutely devastated that our RPA members’ trust has been so publicly betrayed.

“Players voluntarily took part in these interviews and gave their honest and frank assessment of England’s Rugby World Cup Campaign.

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“The aim was to be completely open and transparent, and players should be respected for refusing to shy away from some of the problems encountered.

“Players were critical of themselves, of the coaching team and of the RFU and its leadership. Their determination was for everyone to be accountable and take responsibility for the disappointing showing in the Rugby World Cup.

“Many comments were understandably robust because they knew England had not performed as they could have and the players are committed to getting things right for the future.

“If England wants to regain its status as a respected rugby nation, it is imperative that we stop the rot at the top of the game and show some much-needed integrity.

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“What example does this set to the game? It is an absolute disgrace.

“It was the lack of faith in the system and process being confidential that saw many players shy away from completing the RFU questionnaires in the first place and, perhaps not surprisingly, their mistrust has been proven to be correct. We cannot ignore that once again there has been a serious breach of confidentiality.

“We are demanding a detailed investigation to track down the source of the leak and deal appropriately with that person. If we are serious about destroying the porous culture in our game, then we need to introduce tougher security measures to weed out these self-serving people.”

The witch hunt is underway for the source to be unmasked, but that person has done a public service.

Fans pay money, they deserve to know what goes on at the very top of the game. It is not one anonymous insider who is culpable, but the whole system of English rugby that is in need of censure.

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