England 15-16 South Africa, Twickenham, November 24
Lancaster stands by his man
ESPN Staff
November 26, 2012
England coach Stuart Lancaster and captain Chris Robshaw, England training session, Twickenham, England, November 16, 2012
England boss Stuart Lancaster has refused to criticise captain Chris Robshaw's decision making against the Springboks on Saturday © Getty Images

England boss Stuart Lancaster has thrown his full support behind under-fire captain Chris Robshaw ahead of their final clash of the autumn against New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.

Robshaw's decision making was called in to question again following England's 16-15 defeat to South Africa last weekend having been criticised for his game management in the wake of their loss to Australia the previous week.

In their most recent outing Robshaw instructed replacement fly-half Owen Farrell to kick for goal rather than to the corner for a lineout when England trailed South Africa 16-12 with two minutes remaining. Robshaw asked referee Nigel Owens if he could change his call and was denied. Farrell made the kick but England failed to recover the ball from the kick off and the Boks closed out the victory.

In contrast, against Australia, Robshaw sent the ball to the corner in search of a game-defining try when trailing by just six points and with 20 minutes to play. The Wallabies held out and England slumped to a 20-14 defeat.

"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 after the game. "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 and we move on.

"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 tomorrow [Sunday] night."

Lancaster put what appeared to be a disagreement over what to do with the penalty down to England's relative inexperience, although he confirmed Farrell should have followed captain's orders.

"I certainly haven't seen anything that led me to believe (there was insubordination)," Lancaster said after the game. "There is a decision to make. The captain makes the decision and everyone abides by it.

"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."

Lancaster is now braced for the "ultimate" test - against the All Blacks. "There are enough performances from other teams to know that they're not an unbeatable side," Lancaster said. "Australia held New Zealand to 18-18. Ireland in the second Test in June almost beat them down there. Argentina in the Rugby Championship got stuck into New Zealand and almost beat them.

"South Africa are a side ranked second in the world and we probably should have won the game. The ultimate test comes next week. I don't think I will have a problem motivating the players for that All Blacks game.

"We've got to take another step up from this week. (The one missing ingredient) is composure. You couldn't fault our intensity, our physicality, our attitude and also we made a lot of line-breaks and opportunities.

"Some of the critical moments, we didn't get right. Those are the tools we need. That indefinable quality is what grows with experience."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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