England ended their World Cup with a meaningless 60-3 rout of Uruguay in Manchester and will now begin their inquest into the calamitous group exit that is likely to end the reign of Stuart Lancaster.
Number eight Nick Easter celebrated his first international start for four years with a hat-trick of tries, wing Jack Nowell also crossed three times, Anthony Watson plundered two and there was also a score for Henry Slade and a penalty try.
The decision to field four fly-halves in the backline was more of a hindrance than an asset, resulting in too many passes when England would have been better served by having the option to carry over the gainline.
Among the playmakers on display was Slade, the Exeter centre who used his second cap to produce a performance – albeit against outclassed opponents – that begged the question why this was his first appearance of the World Cup.
It took until the second half for England to hit their stride, but even then they were their own worst enemies as they continued to suffer at the breakdown, a frustrating theme throughout the tournament.
Easter was superb and named man of the match, Joe Launchbury picked up where he left off against Australia and Danny Care was lively, but minnows Uruguay – the last team to qualify for the World Cup – wilted after the interval.
Successive losses to Wales and Australia had already confirmed England’s tournament demise, a fate which will have felt all the more painful after learning the result when their heavyweight Pool A rivals clashed at Twickenham earlier in the day.
The Wallabies prevailed 15-6, meaning that had England opted for the draw-securing late penalty against Warren Gatland’s men two weeks ago they would have progressed to the knockout phase.
Instead, they must see the global showpiece continue without them while Lancaster waits anxiously for the outcome of the Rugby Football Union’s review into the nation’s worst performance at a World Cup.
Lancaster’s lieutenants Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree watched from the stands at Manchester City Stadium after receiving changing rooms bans for communicating with the assistant referees against Australia.
Slade was influential early in the match, gliding through Uruguay’s midfield before helping set up the first try – his well-judged pass finding Nowell, who chipped ahead and Watson won the foot race.
England threatened a second try soon after but lost their way, Slade and Chris Robshaw knocking on at key moments before the South Americans won a morale-boosting scrum free-kick.
Poor handling continued to take a toll on the hosts’ ambition – they sent every penalty into touch rather than kicking for the posts – but two tries by Easter swept them clear.
The first saw him fall over the whitewash after a line-out drive and the second was the result of sustained pressure as outgunned Uruguay were pushed backwards by the English pack.
England were guilty of over-elaborating and their off-loading was poor, but with little coming back from the South Americans any mistakes went unpunished.
There was a noticeable increase in intensity for the start of the second half and a try arrived after just one minute, the backs lined up in a vertical line behind the scrum before peeling right and creating space for Watson to score his second.
On two occasions James Haskell knocked on when England were in strong attacking positions and then the Wasps back row wasted a break by Danny Care by conceding a penalty for flopping over the ball.
The footballing skills of Slade swept England over the whitewash for a fifth time and then it was Nowell’s turn to cross after benefiting from Care’s injection of pace and clever run.
Nowell was in for his second after quick hands capitalised on a crumbling Uruguay defence before Jonathan Joseph and Slade teed the Exeter wing up for his third. The rout was completed by a penalty try.