Stuart Lancaster has again thrown his support behind embattled captain Chris Robshaw and stressed there were no divisions in the leadership of the England team.
Robshaw’s decision-making has been under the microscope after he instructed Owen Farrell to kick a penalty goal when England were trailing South Africa 16-12 with just over two minutes remaining. Farrell openly disagreed with Robshaw’s decision on the field and the discussions continued down the tunnel and on into the changing-room. The week before, against Australia, Toby Flood kicked a penalty for the corner as England chased the game when Robshaw appeared ready to take the three points.
But Lancaster insisted the squad were unified in their backing of Robshaw, who had led from the front against the Springboks with a Herculean individual performance. “Chris has done a fantastic job for us and we are 100 per cent behind him,” Lancaster said. “When I was captain, you always tend to have a debate with your fly-half because you have the decision between you – is it in your range, should we go for the corner? I am not concerned we have a split or a leadership dynamic that is causing me problems as a coach.
“I saw Chris on my own (when he came back into camp last night) and he was a bit flat. But I saw him a little bit later and he said ‘I feel so much better because everyone has come up to me and said don’t worry about it, we are all behind you’. I am proud of the team they have behaved in that regard.”
Robshaw believed a quickly-taken shot at goal would leave enough time for England to gather the restart and get back downfield with a chance to win the game with another penalty or drop-goal.
Had Mouritz Botha allowed South Africa’s restart to land out on the full, rather than fumbling it into touch, England would have had a strong attacking position from a scrum on half-way.
The alternative would have been to go for the try by kicking for the corner and hoping England could win the lineout – no certainty against the well-drilled Springbok unit – and drive over the line.
“It was not black and white. Either decision could have won the game,” Lancaster said.