In defence of Robshaw


When England lost 14-20 to Australia they were widely criticised for their poor decision making, in particular for going to the corner rather than taking the points as they chased the Australian score.

As captain and the man responsible for decision making in the team, Chris Robshaw bore the brunt of the criticism. Correctly on some counts, incorrectly on others, after all there is not a lot he can do if Ben Youngs decides to take a quick tap.

Robshaw though, being an honest chap, held his hands up, admitted the mistake and vowed to learn from it. Learn from it he did, and four points behind South Africa with a couple of minutes to go, he instructed Owen Farrell to go for the posts.

The trouble was, this time the corner might actually have been the better option.

So once again Robshaw has come under extreme scrutiny for his decision making, and once again he has held his hands up, once again vowed to learn.

Let us consider it then, was it really a case of poor decision making?

I have to say no, it wasn’t. That is not to say that going to the corner was the wrong option either, simply that going for the posts was not a bad one.

Let me explain why; when Nigel Owens blew is whistle it was about 77.30 on the clock, leaving two and a half minutes to play. More than enough to kick the goal, let the South Africans dawdle their way to the kick off and then launch another attack.

What there was not time for though was the farce that England created with indecisiveness from the England team and panicked decisions and questions of Owens. Then there was the inexcusable delay in getting a kicking tee to Farrell, The man with the tee has one job; get the tee to the kicker, fast. He did not.

Even with all of these delays though, there was still time for the restart after Farrell kicked the points. Time for a restart means time for an attack.

Let us not forget that if Mouritz Botha had just left the kick off alone it would have gone out on the full, meaning an England scrum on the halfway line, a perfect platform for England to work their way up to position themselves for a drop goal.

Even if Botha had caught it, it would have meant England possession and a chance to push for a score. Instead he spilt the ball in touch, giving South Africa the ball and with it the game.

So it is clear that with greater decisiveness and then greater execution of skills, England would have had the time and field position to at least have a chance of victory.

It is also worth remembering that had they kicked all of their goals, England would have been in the lead anyway. It must also have been running through Robshaw’s mind that the England lineout had malfunctioned all day and only minutes before they had been repelled when going for a catch and drive. Going for the corner was by no means a more sure way of winning the game.

That is not to say though that it wasn’t the right thing to do. In my view going to the corner was the most likely way for England to win the game. I do not however believe that that makes taking the points the wrong option, it was an option that could have worked, and indeed should have worked better than it did.

So the problem for me was not the decision, clearly it was a considered one, and Robshaw knows better than most that it is just the clock, not the game, that stops at 80 minutes having been involved in that Harlequins epic against Stade Francais.

The problem, in my view, was the indecision that followed. That is the part people should be concerned about. Making the wrong decision, or at least not the best one, can be put down to inexperience (this was only his 11th cap) and to a certain extent media pressure. The debacle that followed is where I’d be putting my questions.

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