Lions wing Mark Cueto believes England team manager Martin Johnson was let down by his players at the recent World Cup.
England made an earlier than anticipated exit after they were beaten at the quarter-final stage by France following a series of uninspiring successes against Argentina, Georgia, Romania and Scotland.
The campaign as a whole was dogged by controversy surrounding a number of off-the-field incidents, with Johnson resigning from his post last week.
A leaked review of players’ opinions has put an even bigger spotlight on events down in New Zealand and Cueto feels he and his team-mates must take some responsibility for Johnson’s departure.
“We all know what happened at the World Cup and how the players sort of let him down,” Cueto told BBC Radio Manchester.
“I think he spent more time and effort cleaning up things off the field than he did on the field.”
Cueto, who toured with the Lion six years ago, is convinced Johnson could have taken England forward had he remained in his position.
The Sale wing believes a first RBS 6 Nations since 2003 would have been enough to ensure Johnson’s position wasn’t under heavy scrutiny but he accepts that performances at the World Cup were below par.
“I still feel he was the right man for the job,” added Cueto.
“You look at the record over the past 12 months and you’d be amazed to think that his job was under pressure, but that’s the way sport is.
“We’d all agree the performances weren’t good enough (at the World Cup) and ultimately the main man takes the blame, but I’m massively disappointed for him.”
As for Johnson’s replacement, Cueto can understand why Northampton boss Jim Mallinder appears to be an early favourite.
Cueto worked with Mallinder during the latter’s time with Sale and the 31-year-old can see him transferring his achievements in the club game on to the international stage.
“Jim, whatever team he has been involved in, has always played a fantastic style of rugby.
“He’s the obvious one. I know Jim relatively well and Jim and Steve Diamond were the coaches here at Sale when I first came on the scene.
“He’s English, he’s done well over the past 10 years with his coaching and his management so he’s always going to be a candidate for the job.”