James Haskell tore into his England team-mates after their laboured 41-10 victory over Georgia and declared: “We are letting ourselves down.”
England eventually scored six tries to claim a bonus-point victory that carries them back to the top of Pool B, but they made hard work of it.
Georgia were the better side for the best part of an hour as England invited pressure on themselves, conceding 14 penalties.
Manager Martin Johnson branded his team as “sloppy” - but Haskell went much further with a brutal attack on England’s failings.
“People have got to start pointing some fingers and saying ‘This is not acceptable’,” said Haskell, who was pressed into action late after Nick Easter withdrew with a back injury and finished as the leading tackler in the game, along with Simon Shaw.
“Johnno is not happy, the coaches are not happy - the players need to look at themselves and realise they are not working as hard as they should be.
“People should be excited about this team, excited about our performances, but we are letting ourselves down. We are stuck in a bit of a mire.
“Look at the good sides. They have that control, whatever happens you feel they are going to win. With England at the moment it is, ‘This could go either way’.
“We are not in control and there is uncertainty which makes everyone go: ‘Christ what’s going on?’.
“You can’t even begin to play your game if every time you do something there’s a penalty.
“You are just on the back foot, tackling, get up, penalty. It is like banging your head against the wall.
“That is not acceptable with the players and talent we have got.”
Haskell believes the only way forward for England is for those players guilty of letting the team down to be singled out.
“The days of brushing it under the carpet are gone. It has got to that stage, got that serious,” said Haskell.
“It starts with identifying individuals, areas we need to improve. who’s not working hard, who’s not trusting it (the system).
“That will come out from our meetings. We will have some tough video sessions tomorrow or Tuesday.
“That’s how it should be.
“You only get one chance at a World Cup, so faffing around is not the way forward.”
As angry as Haskell was, he recognised England would be doing themselves a greater disservice if they ended up allowing the brutal introspection to affect their confidence.
England tackle Romania in Dunedin next Saturday and then Scotland in the decisive pool clash on October 1.
“There is that fine balance,” said Haskell.
“You don’t want to go out and be frightened to make a mistake. You have got to play on the edge but play on the edge with control.
“That is lacking at the moment. It will come from training.
“Romania are another big side, a tough side who are disruptive. They will see what Georgia did this evening and come out the same. We have got to match it.
“We are not walking around saying we have had two wins, that’s hunky dory.
“But we will keep working on this. We have got to play with confidence. We can’t let any of this overshadow this.”
Scrum-half Ben Youngs has already started pointing the finger, blaming the England pack.
“For a back it’s pretty frustrating to see our forwards give away so many penalties,” Youngs said.
“It’s more a case of ill-discipline and not listening. Be patient. We’ve got to trust our defence.
“We don’t need to infringe when we’re 50 metres from our line. There’s no point. It’s just silly.
“We will address it in review and probably be harsh and single out individuals. Make sure they don’t do it in training and hopefully encourage them not to do it at weekends.”