- Rugby at this level starts with 20 minutes to go – England must learn
- Replacements cost Stuart Lancaster’s momentum at the vital moment
- Owen Farrell was superb, and Lancaster should have stuck with his call
- Coaches are to blame for costly late call to kick for the corner
- Warren Gatland deserves credit for another superb Wales win
- Rugby World Cup 2015: The latest news, fixtures and scores
Sir Clive Woodward for the Daily Mail
It pains me to say it but England looked like a team of amateurs playing against streetwise professionals in the last 20 minutes at Twickenham.
From being well in control at 22-12 up after 52 minutes with a good, solid and efficient performance, it unravelled horribly as England shot themselves in the foot.
Rugby at this exalted level starts with 20 minutes to go — the last 20 minutes on Saturday should be a salient lesson for English rugby that you need to make tough decisions on and off the pitch if you really want to dominate the top table of the international game.
England captain Chris Robshaw looks on as his team came up just short against Wales at Twickenham
Robshaw walks off dejected following the defeat that leaves England’s World Cup hopes hanging by a thread
Despite having been in a dominant position with 20 minutes to play, England found a way to lose the game
First, they stopped playing and stopped looking for the try that would probably have closed the game out.
Then they lost all momentum with their changes off the bench — changes which led directly to a Wales try — and then there was the confusion at the end over whether to go for a line-out or a penalty shot to draw the game.
I wouldn’t wish to take anything away from Wales’s heroic performance. They were gutsy, brave and outplayed England when it counted for a famous victory. But England opened the door for them.
The irony here is that Stuart Lancaster’s big call in the week — Owen Farrell and Sam Burgess in — actually worked.
I would have picked George Ford and Henry Slade to maintain England’s attacking threat, but as a coach I fully understood the rationale behind the decisions. It was a limited game plan but it was working.
Farrell was outstanding and Burgess solid. He was scorched once by Scott Williams on the outside but Williams has done that to plenty of class centres.
Owen Farrell, who had kicked superbly all night, was not given the chance to level things by his captain
England lost all momentum with their changes off the bench, as their replaced players could only watch on
Dan Biggar broke the record for points in a match by a Welsh player at the World Cup with 23 of Wales’ 28. He hit seven penalties and a conversion.
Generally England’s midfield were doing the job asked of them and if England had not conceded a succession of silly penalties — all correctly awarded by Jerome Garces — the game was theirs.
But then came the replacements. There were a couple of injuries — Ben Youngs and Billy Vunipola — but the others were not strictly necessary and the late introduction of Ford made no sense at all.
England were all at sea defensively with Ford at 10, Farrell at 12 and Brad Barritt defending the 13 channel. It came when Wales suffered a succession of injuries.
But rather than take advantage, our substitutions evened the odds. From looking secure most of the night, England were suddenly lost and Wales’s decisive try was down to that. First, Farrell sprang out of the line and gave Wales a sniff and then Barritt couldn’t resist and got left for dead.
Courtney Lawes (right) and Ben Youngs were taken off in the second half, as Wales came back to win
Gareth Davies beats the tackle of Richard Wigglesworth to score the all-important Wales try
Why abandon a seemingly successful game plan? Yet again in the last 15-20 minutes, England didn’t have the 15 players on the park you would want when the pressure is ramped up.
The front row had been going well. The defensive structure of the backs was OK. Why change it by bringing on Ford? The England XV who finished the game was: Brown; Watson, Barritt, Farrell, May; Ford, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Webber, Brookes; Launchbury, Parling; Wood, Robshaw, Haskell.
Could you imagine this XV starting for England in a game of this importance? No, so why finish with it?
BLAME THE COACHES
England’s decision to kick for the corner rather than ask Farrell to shoot at goal to draw the match was the wrong call but it wasn’t Chris Robshaw’s fault. That one is down to the management.
It should have been discussed and coached at the very start of Lancaster’s regime. ‘What if’ coaching sessions might not be among the most glamorous, but like any aspects of international rugby, if you get these basics right the results will follow.
Decision-making is done through coaching and is just as important, if not more important, than any other aspect.
The blame for England’s poor late decision-making lies with Stuart Lancaster and his coaching staff
In the calm light of day you sit down and discuss likely scenarios. It might be how to play with 14 men, or what tactics to adopt if the game descends to uncontested scrums.
It would certainly include every conceivable ‘what if’ you might face either defending or chasing a narrow lead in the final two minutes of a huge World Cup pool game.
It is not possible, surely, that England have not sat down and asked themselves what the call is if they are faced with a very late penalty to draw as opposed to win.
Ever since the draw was made in 2012 this was on the cards against Wales and Australia. There is every chance of it happening again on Saturday.
So you kick it around in your team room on a quiet Monday afternoon when everybody is recovering from their club games the previous day.
And then the coach and team decide the policy so that you make the correct, logical call when you can’t hear yourself think in front of 80,000 fans, your brain is scrambling and the pressure is really on.
Lancaster and Robshaw should have had a clear idea of the decision long before the crucial moment came
For England to say it was the captain’s call, and for Robshaw to accept the blame, is not right. It was a collective error that may haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Awareness and decision-making at the death has been an issue before but England got away with it.
In the first warm-up against France, stand-in skipper Tom Wood opted to kick into the corner thinking they were four points up and needed a try to seal the game when in fact they were five up and just needed the simple pot at goal.
Then, after the Fiji game, Billy Vunipola — who plays in the try-scoring position of No 8 — tells us he didn’t know that the bonus-points system was operating in the World Cup.
Here England have been burnt for not excelling in this important area. Simply put, it separates the good teams from the world class ones.
HATS OFF TO GATLAND
It would be remiss not to note another outstanding coup for Warren Gatland and his coaching team. He let England do most of the talking in the lead-up and from seemingly being in the box seat last Monday, they increasingly came under pressure.
I love watching Sam Warburton — what a warrior. Dan Biggar made the stage his own, and even when things weren’t going their way each player dug in with everything they had.
Wales coach Warren Gatland deserves credit for leading his side to a World Cup victory at Twickenham
Sam Warburton applauds the travelling fans after Wales had come from behind to beat their neighbours
Gatland must have been tempted to start with Justin Tipuric but went with his gut instinct which suggested there would be a heap of tackling for Wales to do in the first hour when Dan Lydiate could shine.
Tipuric and the rest of the bench made a huge contribution in those decisive 20 minutes. Gatland was calm afterwards and you could see he was already thinking Fiji — a coach who has been there and has the T-shirt. Congratulations once again. A successful siege of Twickenham.
Man of the match… but it’s tempting to leave out Farrell
Owen Farrell was my man of the match on Saturday but I would still consider not starting him on Saturday against Australia.
He came in and did a very specific job against particular opponents and he carried out his role admirably, but the circumstances against the Wallabies are different.
England collectively have to produce the performance of their careers, they must play seriously good rugby and they need to score tries.
They should target five tries just to get everyone’s mind-set right. You are not going to beat Australia by penalties alone. For that to happen there is a very strong case for reverting to Ford at fly-half, especially if Jonathan Joseph is fit.
Farrell was England’s man of the match against Wales, but George Ford (left) must start the next game
Farrell played his role to perfection, but England will need to be more attacking against Australia
The England back three are playing very well and with the stakes so high England must fire all their bullets.
If Joseph is not fit I would bring Henry Slade straight in at 13. England need every creative talent they have on the field.
All that would involve either dropping Farrell to the bench, a harsh but pragmatic call, or possibly moving him to inside centre, which is the position that has been a problem for the entirety of Stuart Lancaster’s regime.
The options there are either Barritt, Burgess or Farrell. I would go with Farrell and absolutely go for it Saturday night. That is a backline which will cause concern in Australia’s camp.
England need to slam the doors shut at Pennyhill Park this week and ignore the outside world. Any rhetoric around culture and home advantage stops — ‘scrums, line-outs, five tries’ is all I want to hear.
England need to stop talking about culture, and find a way to beat the Wallabies next Saturday night
The drama surrounding individual selections has been a distraction and there has been way too little emphasis on the minutiae of the rugby itself.
There must not be any leaks and to avoid that I would announce the team at 9am on Monday and be done with it.
And then batten down the hatches and go to work and do all your talking on the pitch at 8pm on Saturday — England now expects.
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