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Robshaw's penalty decision could haunt England

2015-09-27 09:37

London - The decision to spurn a 78th-minute kick at goal and opt for a lineout while trailing Wales by three points on Saturday could ultimately cost England a place in the World Cup quarter-finals and haunt captain Chris Robshaw for the rest of his career.

Only Will Carling has led England as captain on more occasions than Robshaw. Saturday marked the day he overtook Martin Johnson in that regard but his near four-years in charge will be condensed into that call made under the most intense pressure he would ever have experienced.

Robshaw might have been somewhat flummoxed to have found his side trailing at all after dominating the match and leading for most of it but Dan Biggar's boot and a try by Gareth Davies suddenly left the hosts three behind with the clock ticking.

When they were awarded a penalty wide on the right he had the option of asking Owen Farrell to go for goal to secure a probable draw. Farrell had nailed every one of his five goalkicks as well as a drop-goal and most of the 81,129 crowd would have backed him to land another to fully justify his recall to the starting lineup.

Robshaw, however, opted to kick for touch and go for a lineout. England collected it successfully but their attempt at a maul was shunted into touch by an almighty Welsh drive and when the visitors won the resulting lineout, it was all over and Wales celebrated a remarkable 28-25 victory.

"That came to myself," said Robshaw when asked who made the decision. "I spoke to the kickers on the pitch and we decided we wanted to go for the win but unfortunately it didn't come off.

"It was a tough kick and in the two driving mauls before we'd made some good ground."

Coach Stuart Lancaster described it, unsurprisingly, as a "big call." "On the field they make the decision. If you go there (the lineout), you've got to score it," he said.

England's lineout expert Geoff Parling said: "It (the kick)was not a 'gimme'. It was five metres from the touchline.

"We thought we might get a play that would sneak us over, but it didn't work. Hindsight is a wonderful thing."

A draw would have left England in a strong position to progress with a win over Australia and Wales coach Warren Gatland certainly expected that outcome.

"I thought they would have gone for goal and taken the draw," he said.

"We expected that front throw on the lineout and did a good job to stop the maul.

"They are the decisions you make sometimes; you get there and drive over the line and you're a hero.

"We spoke about it afterwards with the coaches and I said I'd have taken the three points."

Former England coach Clive Woodward was in no doubt either. "You have to take the kick at goal," he said. "There was still time to go for the win after that, there were still a couple of minutes to go."

His 2003 World Cup-winning scrumhalf Matt Dawson concurred. "At the minimum, after a bad day at the office you come away with a result," he said.

"It was mystifying."

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