England captain Chris Robshaw feels England’s November Test series will be judged a failure if they lose to Australia on Saturday.
England captain Chris Robshaw is in no doubt that England’s November Test series will be judged a failure if they lose to Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.
This weekend’s clash will be a dress rehearsal for the old rivals match at next year’s World Cup in England in a pool also involving Wales that – with only the top two teams going through to the quarter-finals – has inevitably been labelled the “group of death”.
For some pundits – regardless of what England achieve against Australia – the month’s campaign, where Stuart Lancaster’s men have lost to both world champions New Zealand (24-21) and South Africa (31-28) at Twickenham before overcoming Samoa, has already raised worrying questions about the capability of the Red Rose back division to trouble the game’s top nations.
And there is no doubt that for a team like England, who regard themselves as having a genuine chance of winning the World Cup, another loss to one of the southern hemisphere’s ‘big three’ would be a blow 10 months out from the start of the World Cup.
“If we lose we must view this as a poor campaign,” said Robshawahead of England’s final match before the start of the Six Nations.
“That disappointment would be tough to take for all the guys.
“This game is huge because our next game will be at the Millennium Stadium against Wales, so we’ll be using that as big motivation.
“Ask any team in the world if they believe they should be expected to win at home and they’ll say yes.”
Nevertheless, Robshaw insisted a win over Australia – who will kick-off on the back of successive slim tour defeats by France (29-26) and Ireland (26-23) – would leave England well-placed in the run-up to 2015.
“Losing to the two best teams in the world by three points, and beating two more, is not a bad place in which to be,” added the Harlequins flanker.
“I do not think we’ve gone backwards, but we haven’t moved forwards at the pace we were moving at in last autumn’s series and in the Six Nations.”
While some teams have tried to downplay the potential impact of this month’s contests on the World Cup, with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen labelling any such linkage as “baloney”, Robshaw is convinced a victory for Australia on Saturday would put a spring in the step of the Wallabies.
“Look at what happened before the 2007 World Cup,” he said.
“England played South Africa and lost and then lost to them twice during the actual tournament.”
Saturday’s 28-9 win over Samoa, a side who have never beaten England, brought a degree of respite although such was the difference in standard between the game Pacific Islanders and England’s two previous opponents that many pundits were left lamenting the hosts’ lack of a truly commanding victory.
Needless to say had the Samoans won, England would never have heard the end of it but Robshaw said dealing with increased scrutiny was all part of the build-up to the World Cup.
“We’ve noticed during this campaign that all the outside stuff has built up more than usual,” he said.
“As Stuart Lancaster said last week, we’re hosting a World Cup next year so we need to get used to this.
“We are playing one of the best teams in world rugby at one of the world’s top stadiums. We can only see that as something to excite and inspire us.”