England’s abiding unpopularity in the rest of the rugby world ensured a tsunami of jokes swamped social media and landed in the in-boxes of grieving Englishmen, most playing on the theme of an inability to get out of a pool.
It was in the English media, however, that the knives really came out for those responsible for the debacle of a host nation being knocked out before the completion of the pool matches.
Wales bowed out at a similar stage as one of five co-host nations at the 1991 World Cup but even that lacked the ignominy of the departure of the 2003 champions.
“Maul Over, World Ends,” read the backpage headline in the Sun with “The Great Barrier grief” on the inside pages, while the Sunday Times chose “Hosts bounced out by ruthless Wallabies” and the Daily Telegraph “Humiliated on home turf”.
“England’s rugby players invited the world to an all-night party and were safely tucked up in bed, alone, before 10pm,” Michael Calvin wrote in the Independent on Sunday.
“Their friends slunk into the shadows, and their guests pillaged the drinks cabinet until they could barely stand.
“The failure of Chris Robshaw’s team is cataclysmic, individually and collectively. They have no one to blame but themselves.”
Former England coach Clive Woodward said there should be an inquest with “consequences” for those in charge, as well as those who appointed them, but said it should happen only after the tournament was over.
“Yes it was a tough pool but England should have been well capable of beating both Wales and Australia,” wrote the World Cup winner.
“No expense has been spared in England’s preparation and they were at home in both matches. Everything was in England’s favour and they should have cashed in.”
Influential Welsh writer Stephen Jones called for England coach Stuart Lancaster to be axed and for Woodward to oversee the appointment of a coach with “experience, charisma and stature”.
“It is the low point in their history,” he wrote in the Sunday Times. “Change must be rapid and profound.”
The Sunday Telegraph agreed with the headline “Stuart Lancaster’s men were not ready, not clever and not good enough.”
Japan’s coach Eddie Jones, Warren Gatland of Wales, former South Africa coach Nick Mallett and Englishman Jim Mallinder were named possible candidates by that paper, one of several who rushed a “blueprint for the future” to the presses.
Replacing Lancaster and captain Robshaw were common solutions, while other popular themes were a change to the rules to allow overseas-based Englishmen to represent their country.
Rugby Football Union Chief Executive Ian Ritchie said on Sunday there would be no knee-jerk decision over the future of Lancaster but former England forward Dean Ryan said it was naive to think he could survive.
“There will be blood. Of course there will,” he wrote on the Guardian website. “You don’t fumble your own World Cup without even getting to the end of the pool stage and then survive.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)