England 12 South Africa 16

MOMENT OF INDECISION: England captain Chris Robshaw asks referee Nigel Owens if he can change his mind

MOMENT OF INDECISION: England captain Chris Robshaw asks referee Nigel Owens if he can change his mind

First published in Sport

STUART Lancaster offered captain Chris Robshaw his full support in a meeting at the England team hotel last night.

Robshaw’s decision-making is under the spotlight again after he instructed Owen Farrell to kick for goal when England trailed South Africa 16-12 with two minutes remaining.

Last week, Robshaw was criticised for turning down the points on offer and going for the try as England chased the game against Australia.

This time Robshaw believed a quickly-taken three points from Farrell would still leave England time to gather the restart, get back downfield and win the game.

But Robshaw’s authority was cast into doubt when Farrell openly disagreed with the decision to go for the posts, urging him to kick for the corner.

Robshaw asked referee Nigel Owens if he could change his call and was denied.

Farrell kicked the goal but Mouritz Botha fumbled the restart and South Africa won 16-15.

‘‘International sport is tough. It’s tough for coaches, it’s tough for players, it’s tough for people if they make a mistake,’’ Lancaster said.

‘‘It happens all the time and what you’ve got to do is make sure people are supported.

There is a trust that things will be discussed behind closed doors in the right way.

‘‘You look at the decisions the players make and you want to support them first and foremost, which is what I will always do.

‘‘We will review them in private but there were a lot of critical moments in the game and the positives out-weighed the negatives.

‘‘I spend time with Chris as captain. It is important that the head coach and captain have that relationship.

‘‘Last Sunday we had a good chat in camp before everyone else turned up and we will do the same again.’’ Lancaster, who has called up Freddie Burns of Gloucester as fly-half cover for Toby Flood, put the penalty disagreement down to England’s relative inexperience, although he confirmed Farrell should have followed captain’s orders.

Robshaw’s decision received the support of Sir Clive Woodward, Will Greenwood and Brian Moore but the debate over whether to go for the posts ate up valuable time.

‘‘There is a decision to make. The captain makes the decision and everyone abides by it,” said Lancaster.

‘‘We will review the game on Monday. When I look at the All Black generals, you’ve got Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith probably, Kieran Read. They’ve got some good decision-makers who have been through the mill together, the ups and downs, the wins and losses.

‘‘That’s what comes with time and experience, and we’re still on that journey.’’ The next stage will pitch England’s greenhorn side into battle against world champions New Zealand.

England played with great intensity against the Springboks, matching South Africa’s physicality and Robshaw was integral to that effort.

But once again England lacked that critical cutting edge.


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