Robshaw goes straight to the top of the class

England have much to do but display of maturity bodes well for future

twickenham

As a coming-of age-party, this was remarkable. England, of course, remain a work in progress and will find backing up such a result in the new year even more difficult, now they have downed so dramatically the top-ranked team in the world and made of themselves even more of a target in the Six Nations' Championship.

Yet these are the games that change boys to men. England this autumn had looked more like youthful hopefuls than a team of such maturity that they could manipulate a New Zealand team – the All Blacks, for heaven's sake – around the field in a way usually particular to the men in black.

Best of all Chris Robshaw, the captain subject to such criticism after the losses to Australia and South Africa, led the charge. Moments before the end, Robshaw tackled his opposite number, Richie McCaw, as New Zealand's famed leader tried to bring momentum in a dying cause.

McCaw, in his 116th international compared with Robshaw's 12th, was unable to keep his side going forward. Every query posted over Robshaw this month was answered. We have to remember that he is still in, effectively, only his second season of international rugby, and that in 11 of his 12 games he has had to lead a side fighting their way out of the 2011 World Cup morass. He has carried a huge burden all year, alongside his domestic achievement of leading his club to the top of the English tree, and is still learning.

What, he was asked, was the number one lesson he had learned himself from the past month? "There are too many," he replied, but perhaps he had already answered the question: "It's about knowing we were good enough to go out and challenge these sides." This calendar year England have played the southern-hemisphere trio six times; the return may be no more than a win and a draw but, given England's starting point last January, that is not the worst of records.

Because he is an individual of character, Robshaw will continue to reflect on the decisions made against Wallaby and Springbok in November – to kick at goal or for the corner – games that were lost by six points and one point respectively. But here his England did not put a foot wrong; not many countries have it within them to reduce New Zealand's space so that household names look ordinary, but that is what Robshaw and his colleagues did. They contrived, as one experienced All Blacks watcher observed, exactly what New Zealand themselves had planned to do.

When England looked like getting carried away with the expansion of their game which brought three tries in eight second-half minutes, Robshaw made sure the penalty goals were kicked to ensure no late rally by the opposition. These were easy decisions, particularly since Freddie Burns had just come on for his first cap, was given a 12‑metre chip at the posts and must wonder what the fuss is about at this exalted level.

"Everyone rose to the occasion and wanted to prove a few people wrong," Robshaw, a glint in his eye, said. "No one had given us a chance all week but we were quietly confident that if we stuck to our processes, our systems, we could go out and perform. [Personal criticism] is part of the job. I've got a great team around me, coaches and players, and if you're in that position, we gave the best possible response today."

It is pertinent, too, that the coaching team is callow; they too are learning on the job but there is a unity among management and players which will carry England forward. "We will learn a lot from every game of the autumn series," Robshaw said. "It may be the physicality required, the smartness to manipulate the game, adapting on the pitch. But international rugby is about winning and losing. You can talk a good performance; today we delivered.

"Two years ago at Harlequins we were so close in a lot of games, last year we won the Premiership. This is a new group of players, these things take time but now it's about taking that into the Scotland game [the opening game in February of the Six Nations]."

Robshaw acknowledged the support he has received from outside the England group, from such experienced individuals as Nick Easter, his back-row colleague at Harlequins. But he will listen, too, to the generous comment of Steve Hansen, New Zealand's head coach: "There were," he said, "two teams capable of winning the [2015] World Cup out there." The All Blacks too will be stronger for this blot on their 2012 escutcheon.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?