Leicester Tigers in blast at England over star duo
Leicester Tigers head coach Matt O'Connor has launched a stinging attack on the England coaches for their treatment of the club's half-backs Ben Youngs and Toby Flood.
The Australian says his out-of-favour play-makers have received "unjust criticism" and that England's handling of them has created "unnecessary self-doubt".
He also believes England interim head coach Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team "don't want creative players" and are taking the field merely "trying not to lose".
Following England's unhappy World Cup campaign, both Flood and Youngs picked up injuries and have lost their starting shirts.
Youngs, 22, was dropped to the bench for the defeat by Wales and is again expected to be there against France in Paris on Sunday.
Flood, however, has not even made the squad for the trip and has dropped to third-choice fly-half behind Saracens duo Owen Farrell and Charlie Hodgson.
Flood and Youngs led England to their first Six Nations title in eight years last season and O'Connor is furious with their treatment.
"Both of them were outstanding for Leicester against Gloucester on Sunday," he said.
"They were dangerous running with the ball and created lots of things for the players around them. They just provide the rest of the team with so many opportunities.
"But the powers-that-be at England have not fully appreciated what they can offer a team.
"England don't want creative players, they are just trying not to lose.
"If that is what they are trying to achieve, you can understand why Flood and Youngs are not the best blokes for the job.
"But if you are going out there to win a game, it has got to be Youngs and Flood at nine and 10.
"There is nothing I have seen so far (in the Six Nations) that indicates England want to go out and beat teams.
"Under the current structure, I cannot see that changing. If you are talking about building a side for the World Cup in 2015, you have to go out and play."
O'Connor believes Flood and Youngs' demotion has had an adverse effect on their game.
"It has created self-doubt and that is unnecessary," he said. "The last thing I want them to have as a coach is self-doubt.
"They are asking questions of themselves unnecessarily, and that is impacting on their decision-making.
"Don't start telling me that they are bad players because I am not having it."
Thomas Waldrom was released from the England squad last night along with Flood and will be available for Friday's LV= Cup semi-final at Bath.
Former Tigers and England flanker Lewis Moody has retired from rugby with immediate effect because of a persistent shoulder injury.