No alarm bells ringing for Lancaster as All Blacks await

Stuart Lancaster refused to add any fuel to the fire that raged through Twickenham on Saturday evening.

The stoic head coach did not lay any blame at the door of Chris Robshaw for his decision to kick a penalty when his side trailed South Africa by four points with two minutes to go.

Nor did he call into question the manner in which Owen Farrell publicly disobeyed his captain’s cautious order to take the penalty rather than kick to touch and try to win the game.

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It was an embarrassing ending that overshadowed what had been an improved performance by England, who for the second successive time came within a whisker of beating the Springboks.

“I didn’t see it on television, or anything to lead me to believe that was the case,” said Lancaster after a display of muddled thinking that was there for all to see at headquarters.

“If the captain makes a decision everyone abides by it.

“The players have to make decisions on the field, we as coaches, cannot affect that.

“What we do is back the players. The purpose of having a captain is that he makes the decisions and the players back him.

“What we do as a group of key decision-makers is meet before and after the game. We’ll do that on Monday.

“I’m not going to single out one decision. One decision didn’t cost us that game.

“As they play more together we will go through the ups and downs of international rugby together.

“When I look at the All Blacks, at Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, they’ve been through the mill together. That, for us, will come with time and experience.”

It is the All Blacks who are next at Twickenham, the world champions now unbeaten in 20 games after dismantling Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

For an improving England – despite their indecision they were undone by a fortuitous try on Saturday by the second-ranked team in the world – there is no sterner test.

Lancaster said: “I think we’re close, the testimony is in the scores.

“I thought our selection worked, the players who we asked to step up, stepped up.

“All the selections we made to freshen it up, paid off.

“But the ultimate test comes next week. I won’t have a problem motivating the players for that.

“Australia drew 18-18 with New Zealand. Ireland in the second Test in the summer went hard at the breakdown against New Zealand and almost beat them.

“Argentina nearly humbled them in the Rugby Championship.

“So there’s enough performances from other teams to suggest that they’re not an unbeatable side.

“But we need another step up from where we were (on Saturday), and the step up has to be one in terms of physicality at the breakdown, and the set piece and then composure under pressure.”

Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns was yesterday called into the England squad as an injury replacement for Toby Flood.

Flood was cleared of a broken toe after England’s defeat to South Africa, but he is expected to be ruled out of next Saturday’s game with New Zealand.

Burns was joined in the England camp yesterday by Bath wing Tom Biggs, who received his first senior call-up after Ugo Monye suffered a calf injury.

Gloucester prop Nick Wood also linked up with England to act as precautionary cover for Alex Corbisiero.