Rugby World Cup 2011: RFU criticised by Premier Rugby chief

By Dan RoanBBC sports news correspondent in Auckland

The chief executive of Premier Rugby has accused the Rugby Football Union (RFU) of "panic management" in the wake of England's World Cup exit.

Mark McCafferty has also questioned the independence of a review into the England set-up commissioned by the RFU.

And he "apologised to the New Zealand Rugby Union on behalf of England" because of a "lack of contrition" from the RFU following off-field problems.

"The performance of some players has been unacceptable," said McCafferty.

England were defeated by France in last weekend's quarter-final but it was the off-field behaviour of some of their players throughout the tournament which overshadowed their on-field displays.

Manager Martin Johnson defended captain Mike Tindall, Chris Ashton, Toby Flood and Dylan Hartley after they were photographed in a bar in Queenstown, while James Haskell, Hartley and Ashton were reprimanded and told to apologise after making inappropriate comments to a female hotel worker.

After the defeat by France, Manu Tuilagi was formally warned by police for jumping off a ferry in Auckland harbour.

"The game has to look at that hard, the individuals have to look at it hard," McCafferty continued.

"But I'm sure there are a lot of players who are frustrated at being tarred with the same brush, who have conducted themselves impeccably and put in a performance we'd expect on the field.

"We now need to start again and rebuild our reputation in double-quick time."

McCafferty said he was also "surprised and disappointed" by the RFU's decision to ask its former vice-chairman Fran Cotton to lead an external review into the England set-up.

Cotton will scrutinise both England manager Martin Johnson and RFU operations director Rob Andrew, who is conducting his own internal review.

But McCafferty said: "Is this review truly independent?

"I understand [Cotton] has already reached some judgements before that group has even met, and it's very questionable as to whether it can be truly independent.

"It smacks of panic management rather than crisis management."

Cotton has gone on record this week criticising the lack of progress made by England under Johnson and expressing his admiration for former head coach Sir Clive Woodward.

McCafferty said the RFU had agreed that any post-World Cup review would be conducted by the governing body's Professional Game Board, on which the clubs are represented.

"Dealing with that kind of crisis, it's important that an organisation responds in a systematic and thoughtful way, not knee-jerk," he added.