Andy Robinson attempted to ward off any further conjecture over his role as England head coach and paid tribute to the "old-fashioned ways" which hauled his team safe from an all-time record eighth successive defeat. "The team stuck together, Martin Corry [the captain] led brilliantly well and there was a lot of guts and pride in what they did," said a relieved Robinson.
"My mind's looking forward to playing South Africa again next week; we've got to build on this. I can tell you there were smiles on faces at Tuesday afternoon's training when the players knocked lumps out of each other. It was back to the old-fashioned ways."
The comment brought a smile to the face of John Wells, England's forwards coach, who gloried in such methods in his time as a player and coach with Leicester Tigers.
Lewis Moody, the Leicester flanker who was one of four second-half replacements in the pack as England fought back from an 18-6 deficit to win 23-21, also hailed the "old-school" preparation. Moody thanked the capacity Twickenham crowd, too, for keeping the faith after some boos were raised at half-time. "It was obvious the crowd were getting behind us when we were controlling the ball," said Moody, "and that buzz and energy really does impact on the players."
Robinson was on the touchline to shake the hand or pat the head of every player as they came off at the end. The previous week he had been down the tunnel as soon as the final whistle went after the defeat by Argen-tina. "We put ourselves under pressure in the last 15 minutes of the first half," he admitted. "We were trying to kick to touch but for some reason the ball was on a bit of rope and didn't want to go off. That gave South Africa five or six bits of possession to attack with. But the dressing room was composed at half-time. Sport asks a lot of questions of you, physically as players and mentally as coaches. Everyone kept their nerve."
Corry said he was "pleased and very proud" at England's fightback from being two scores adrift. One of his predecessors as captain, Phil Vickery, was another of the replacements and came up with the game-breaking try late on. "We talk all week about how important the squad is," said Vickery, "and it's fantastic to get on and make a difference like that. The guys were jittery and rightly so, but for me it's about a crowd of 82,000 people going home smiling."
Not among them was the Springbok coach, Jake White, who had been no less beleaguered than Robinson. "We probably lost it more than we were beaten," said White.
"We made crucial mistakes, but I'm not blaming anybody. I put that down to the number of inexperienced players we have here." South Africa's fly-half Butch James needed a scan on his knee last night having - as White put it - "held on as long as he could" following an early knock. James's opposite number, Charlie Hodgson, also fell victim to a knee injury and he and Andrew Sheridan, who damaged his left ankle, will return to Sale for scans today before seeing specialists tomorrow.
Another of Robinson's assistants, the defence coach Mike Ford, delivered an impassioned speech in praise of his boss. "The one guy who led this group all week was Andy Robinson," said Ford. "No one has worked harder. Martin Corry and the players found it easy to follow him."Reuse content