LONDON • England rugby bosses insisted yesterday that there would be no "hasty reaction" after the team's World Cup exit at the hands of Australia.
The Wallabies' convincing 33-13 victory at Twickenham on Saturday saw England become the first host nation to fail to reach the knockout stage of a World Cup, with their tournament fate decided in a mere 16 days.
England also had the dubious honour of becoming the first former winners to fail to make the quarter-finals.
The result has led to intense speculation over the future of England coach Stuart Lancaster and his assistants, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.
Questions have also been asked about the role of Ian Ritchie, chief executive of England's governing Rugby Football Union.
Last year, he authorised the controversial decision to extend Lancaster's contract to 2020 - beyond the next World Cup in Japan - rather than wait to see how things worked out for the side at this tournament. But Ritchie, in a statement on the englandrugby.com website, said yesterday: "I would like to stress there will be no hasty reaction to England's performance in this World Cup."
His comments came hours after England - backed by the world's wealthiest union - woke up to hard-hitting headlines from British newspapers. "End of the World" proclaimed the Daily Mail, while the Telegraph wrote: "Humiliated on home turf".
Lancaster and captain Chris Robshaw are under no illusions that they have to consider their futures.
"I think I've got to," Lancaster said. "Though it's not going to be my decision. It's not one for now."
"We've still got another week to go. We have to go up to Manchester and put in a good performance against Uruguay," he added, referring to England's final opponents in Pool A.
A video analysis of their Twickenham horror show will highlight that much is wanting from his side.
To see the English pack on the receiving end of the sort of scrum dusting they have routinely handed the Wallabies over the years was a real eye-opener.
The two scything first-half tries by fly-half Bernard Foley were classic Wallaby scores, players prepared to take a risk by coming from deep at express pace, with fast hands and precise timing.
England never came close to matching that, their only try coming as a result of a remarkable burst of speed and determination by winger Anthony Watson.
Too often, England's backs received the ball while stationary and, while the second-half introduction of George Ford added some zest, the Wallabies were too street-wise to get drawn into an open, sevens-style contest and closed the game down.
Robshaw, whose performances and leadership have come under fire from commentators, admitted his head is on the chopping block.
"I think this week we're going to have to answer some tough questions. At the moment we're extremely gutted. Myself and the other players, we feel we let a lot of people down today, let the country down," he said.
"Credit to Australia, I think the better team probably won, they put us under a lot of pressure in all facets of the game really."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS