Blown chance another scar for England

Date published: September 27 2015

Watching on as Wales pulled off one of the great smash-and-grab raids in World Cup history has left England in a dark place following Saturday's defeat.

Chris Robshaw's decision to go for the corner rather than posts might have been "a big, brave call" as Warren Gatland put afterwards, but the resulting failure could come to define his captiancy.

This was the opposite of 2012 against South Africa when he took the points over the winning try, but with the same painful outcome.

Having to beat Australia to survive is a nightmare scenario that puts England in danger of becoming the first ever World Cup hosts to not make the quarter-finals.

Huge credit has to go to Wales for their hunger to win.

The fact that their equalising try came through the cutest of kicks by a replacement scrum-half out on the wing, Lloyd Williams, after Wales had once again been beaten up by injuries, says plenty about the spirit and belief that Gatland has tattooed onto his squad.

Factoring in those withdrawals and set-piece issues makes the result all the more remarkable, with Dan Biggar's penalties always keeping Wales just about within reach.

Gatland made it sound so simple when he outlined how Wales changed their approach in the second half. Wales focused on keeping the ball alive to avoid scrums and lineouts, and targeted the wider 13 channel occupied by Brad Barritt which led to Gareth Davies' try.


England's vocal supporters had every reason to feel confident when leading 22-12 with half an hour to go, but the door for a comeback was never locked shut. Wales burned it down.

Indiscipline at the breakdown destroyed England on the scoreboard as they never adjusted to the refereeing Jérôme Garcès, falling foul repeatedly for not rolling away or going off their feet.

Eight of England's 12 penalties conceded came within their own half to give Biggar the chances he required.

A spell of territory and an attacking scrum for England following Hallam Amos' departure with a dislocated shoulder – Wales' second major injury in only a few minutes – had to end with more points yet didn't.

Had England been outclassed the inquest would be more straightforward, but the fact is they dominated territory, made more clean breaks and offloads.

They controlled the scrum, forcing Wales to concede four penalties in an area that when it goes well for England normally translates into victory. Not this time, disspelling the myth that scrum dominance and success go hand-in-hand.

More accuracy and calm were needed as the momentum drifted alarmingly towards Wales in the final quarter, but England continued to bleed penalties and turnovers while kicking loosely as Wales finished far the stronger side, winning the fitness battle.

England lost a contest that wasn't pretty but incredibly gripping, with the sound Hymns and Arias echoing around and outside Twickenham over an hour after the game was over.

Stuart Lancaster and his coaches have a week to get their players' heads straight but England have been here before, missing out on the big results in the Six Nations for four second-place finishes and now doing the same on the biggest stage of all.

Sam Warburton spoke about the desperation in the eyes of his players during England's final attacks to hold the white shirts out and England will take that same frenzied emotion into their game against Australia, when they will have to find the balance between cool heads and playing from the heart.

Saturday's outcome though will leave another deep scar. England had the result in their hands, and blew it.

by Ben Coles