England vs Australia RWC 2015: Stuart Lancaster defends 25-year coaching record and claims bruised England will bounce back

England coach Stuart Lancaster says his team has a habit of responding well  to adversity

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The Independent Online

England coach Stuart Lancaster declared last night that his team had always bounced back with an immediate win after heart-rending defeats during his four years at the helm. He then drew on the spirit of the famous victory over the All Blacks three years ago as evidence that they can prevail over Australia tomorrow, in the game on which their World Cup now hinges.

“I can’t ever think of a time with this team when their spirit has been broken,” said Lancaster, as he confirmed that playmaking outside centre Jonathan Joseph is restored to the side for Twickenham, with Sam Burgess, rather than Henry Slade on the bench. 

“I’ve seen games when we’ve lost by three, five, six points, been disappointed with ourselves or decisions or whatever else, but we’ve always come back and delivered.” 

The 38-21 win over the All Blacks game at Twickenham in December 2012 certainly fits that category. 

It came the week after a desperate last-ditch 16-15 defeat to South Africa when, with overtones of last Saturday’s defeat to Wales, flawed decision-making by captain Chris Robshaw over whether to convert a penalty proved fateful.

Wales’ 23-13 victory over Fiji last night made tomorrow’s game do-or-die, with the prospect of England becoming the first host side not to advance from a World Cup pool stage if they lose. Lancaster performed impressively – with wit and levity – with a tart response to the vociferous criticism Will Carling has thrown at England. 

Asked how many times Carling, captain from 1988 to 1996, had been in to the England camp, Lancaster paused purposefully and thought. “I think he came to a captain’s run once,” said. He treated a follow-up question with studied silence.

Lancaster: England 'must win'

Lancaster – for whom No 8 Ben Morgan and lock Joe Launchbury replace the injured Billy Vunipola and Courtney Lawes, with scrum-half Ben Youngs fit – has been accused of over-coaching his side, who lacked instinctive decision-making skill in defeat to Wales. “I’d shake my head at that,” Lancaster said. “Twenty five years in coaching and teaching…if anyone wants to get in a debate over this spectrum of coaching and teaching styles – I understand what different environments and methods of teaching look like. It’s not in one category. You wouldn’t just say ‘right, you are doing this’ as if it’s a classroom-based environment. It’s rubbish.”

Lancaster is privately aware that he may well have to pursue a career beyond the English set-up if the side suffer the ignominy of an exit, though he laughed off the question of whether his contract – which runs to 2020 – may become invalid after Saturday.

“After we win on Saturday?” he replied. “I’m the wrong person to ask. I understand the accountability and responsibility for delivering in this World Cup, 100 per cent.” 

He was indignant about Farrell’s controversial recall. “There’s a black and white assumption that people have made that if George Ford plays we play fantastic, creative, attacking rugby and when Owen Farrell plays we don’t,” he said. “I don’t subscribe to that view, personally.”