On Saturday night, in front of our very eyes, a nightmare unfolded as Australia pushed England aside with ruthless precision and condemned the hosts to being surplus to requirements in their own tournament.
Disappointment, despair and raw hurt were the emotions etched across the faces of Chris Robshaw and Stuart Lancaster as they addressed the press following the final whistle. Stuart's opening comments summarised, succinctly, their feelings;
"We are obviously absolutely gutted to be going out of the World Cup, even more so our own World Cup. Words can't express how disappointed we are and we have had some fantastic supporters and we feel that we have let them down."
Their pain won't subside quickly and the scars of this test match battle will remain for a long time and may cost one or both their roles within this England set up. When it came down to it, Australia more than deserved to win the test match in question. The Wallabies were more clinical in attack, when they manoeuvred themselves into the right areas of the field they profited on the board whereas in contrast England let too many opportunities slip due to errors or turnovers.
Ironically the ill discipline that savaged England against Wales, and has done so in previous fixtures, was not present, instead it was the potency of David Pocock who inflicted the killer blows. There is no question that Pocock is the best in the world right now, the Wallaby would walk into any side and for however long Australia remain in this competition he will continue to singlehandedly rip teams apart.
In the build unto this fixture, and indeed the Rugby World Cup, Bernard Foley's goal kicking has been questioned however when it mattered he delivered world-class statistics off the tee and added two tries to seal the deal. The fact is that Australia played the test match safe in the knowledge that their Rugby World Cup wasn't on the line and it showed in their demeanour and output. In contrast the weight of the world laid heavily on England's shoulders, particularly in the opening half, and stifled them.
The introduction of George Ford to the game delivered a new dimension and one that, in my opinion, had been missing during the opening half. Ford did exactly what he does best and took it right to Australia, distribution brilliantly and created opportunities for those around him. The question lingers as to what could have happened if Jonathan Joseph was able to stay in the centres with him, for their understanding is outstanding, however we will never know.
Of course there will be multiple calls for wholesale management changes and names will be listed and ranked according to their likelihood of becoming part of the 'new' England. Opinions will differ as to what should happen, in the immediate aftermath of such a defeat I expect the lions share to call for Lancaster's head. In black and white the results do not favour his continuation with no silverware to his name and an early group exit from the largest competition ever. However I will reiterate a question I posed the other day, do you truly believe that England would be, immediately, leagues further ahead if drastic changes are made? It is a discussion that will continue loudly throughout this week and one that I will hold off addressing until after the Uruguay match.
Painfully as the group stages give way to the knockouts, the home Rugby World Cup will go on without England in it and it is a situation that many of us never dared to truly contemplate. I do still believe in the words that I wrote during the week regarding England's ability and potential to win last night's test match however ultimately was proved wrong.
The loss, the exit from the competition and the label as the 'worst hosts in history' cuts us all deeply, however the pain that any outside of the camp, no matter how passionately or ardently you follow or support will be nothing in comparison to the men waking up at Pennyhill Park this week. I expect that the word excruciating, doesn't even begin to come close and what is even more agonising is that they still have test match to play in next weekend, a 'nothing' match. This is not how Rugby World Cup 2015 was supposed to end however that is sport and it doesn't always follow the scripts that we wish it would.