Lewis Moody has urged the England head coach, Stuart Lancaster, to stick with Chris Robshaw as captain despite his blunder in Saturday's 16-15 defeat by South Africa. The 26-year-old has received fierce criticism for his decision to elect Owen Farrell to kick at goal when his side trailed 16-12 with three minutes left. It followed Robshaw's decisions the previous week to spurn two kickable penalties in the loss against Australia.
Television replays showed Robshaw tried to change his decision, after Farrell appeared to take issue with it, only to be told correctly by referee Nigel Owens that it was too late. Moody, Robshaw's predecessor, is in no doubt that the England captain made the wrong call but does not believe it should cost him his position for Saturday's clash with New Zealand, or for next year's Six Nations.
"Stuart should stick with him," said England's most capped flanker. "You shouldn't make a decision on captaincy rashly based on one bad call.
"Robshaw is still very new to the role and you cannot expect him to get everything right straight away. He will be his own biggest critic and he has got to learn from the mistake.
"I don't really see a better alternative. Dylan Hartley and Tom Croft are strong candidates waiting in the wings but I would stick with Chris for the long term. You have to give him the opportunity to let him grow into the role.
"Yes, it did look as if he changed his mind having spoken to Farrell but I don't think that's a problem. I always bounced ideas off my No 10. There were plenty of times when Jonny [Wilkinson] or Toby Flood would come to me and say, 'I'm keen, I want to take the points' and I gave them that opportunity. Vice-versa, there were times when Flood wanted to kick for the corner. You just have to know the decision is your ultimate responsibility.
"I think that if [Robshaw] had been playing for Harlequins the whole thing would have been different. Playing international rugby in front of a crowd of 80,000 changes your thinking process. That's something he has to learn from but I am sure he will do so."
The England prop Dan Cole also expects Robshaw to learn from his error. "You have two minutes to go and we are wasting 30 seconds trying to decide what to do, which isn't good," said Cole, who was watching from the bench in the closing minutes. "Sometimes the right decision is the quick decision. We will live and learn."
With an All Blacks side unbeaten in 20 Test matches up next at Twickenham, the prospect of England suffering a clean sweep by the three big southern hemisphere sides looks highly likely. Such a prospect, allied to the frustrating manner of the defeats by the Wallabies and the Springboks, has put a dampener on the enthusiasm for the Lancaster regime after promising performances in the Six Nations and the summer's South Africa tour.
Moody agrees that England's chance of upsetting New Zealand is extremely slim but is anxious that a third successive defeat, or the consequence of Robshaw's decisions, should not detract from progress he feels has been made in the autumn internationals.
"There was a lot which went right on Saturday," Moody said. "We dominated for long periods and Lancaster's selections paid off. Ben Morgan was excellent at No 8, [full-back] Alex Goode had another cracking game. Let's not get too down about it."