England head coach Stuart Lancaster says the squad stand by captain Chris Robshaw following last weekend’s 16-15 defeat to South Africa.
Robshaw has been condemned for his decision to kick at goal in the dying minutes of the match instead of going to the corner to push for a try with England trailing by four points.
However, Lancaster said Robshaw has the full backing of the team and coaches and added his performance was solid throughout the match.
“The most important thing to say is that the captain makes the decision and we didn’t execute his plan,” he said.
“The players are disappointed that they didn’t make the decision work. In hindsight, looking at it there was no black and white decision to be made.
“There was a slightly higher probability going for the corner but no guarantee we were going to win the line-out as South Africa are a pretty good side in all facets.
“The most important learning for me is that we back the captain and if the captain makes the decision, we make the decision work for him.
“We all feel like we have let Chris down a bit and it’s unfair on him when he was our top ball-carrier and hit more breakdowns than anyone else in our side that he has been the one left responsible for the defeat. That’s unfair and players think it’s unfair and we stand toe-to-toe behind him.”
Lancaster said they have put to loss behind him and that the players are desperate to win against New Zealand on Saturday.
The close defeat to Australia two weekends ago means that the weekend’s clash against New Zealand is England’s final opportunity of the year to record a victory against one of the big Southern Hemisphere sides.
The All Blacks will arrive at Twickenham on the back of a 20-match unbeaten streak and recently put Wales, Scotland and Italy to the sword.
Lancaster said that his side are still as motivated as ever to win at the top level and that once the win comes, the team will be able to build for the future.
“The players are desperate to win and we don’t want be known as guys who just work hard but are happy just to lose. We want to win at this level,” said Lancaster.
“The margins at this level are very small. World Cup finals are often decided by one point, one try, or one kick and that’s a situation we are in.
“We have been on the losing end in the last two weeks but if I look back to the Six Nations and what we achieved and how hard we pushed on the South Africa tour, we are very close to achieving it.
“We have got to keep the faith in what we are doing and keep the belief in what we are doing, keep working hard and hope that our chance will come to get that win, and then we can build from there.”
South Africa’s physical style of play, which has helped them to wins over Ireland and Scotland in the past month, took its toll on flyhalf Toby Flood, who is now ruled out of the New Zealand clash with a toe injury.
Gloucester No.10 Freddie Burns has been drafted into the squad this week as an extra option at flyhalf. He is training with the squad this week and Lancaster says he is excited to get Burns involved in the England set-up.
“It’s disappointing to lose Toby but it’s exciting to bring Freddie into the team. He is a good player and is playing well in the Premiership.
“He has trained with us during the last few weeks so it’s exciting to bring him in and I look forward to seeing him play this week and I’m sure he will get his opportunity at some point during the game.”
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