Chris Hewett: England were wrong not to kick for the sticks – but at least it was daring

As a general rule, in Test rugby you kick your goals as and when they arise

England will kick their goals – or at least, attempt to kick their goals – when they run up against the Springboks at Twickenham on Saturday, partly because the wave of criticism over their decision-making last weekend has forced them into a collective rethink over scoring strategy, but mostly because it is a damned sight harder to manhandle a South African pack from an attacking line-out than it is to make mincemeat of a bunch of Australians.

Chris Robshaw, the red-rose captain, has been roundly accused over the last couple of days for ignoring penalty chances while his side were 20-14 down to the Wallabies with a quarter of the game left to play. Stuart Lancaster, the coach, has joined him in the dock, largely on the say-so of his predecessor Sir Clive Woodward, who expressed the view that a little foresight might have saved an awful lot of hindsight. Such penalty calls should be pre-determined, argued the man who once saw his England side reject kickable goals for fun in a game against Wales and squander a Grand Slam as a consequence.

A couple of hours after the final whistle at the weekend, Robshaw could be heard going some way towards acknowledging that he should have asked his outside-half, Toby Flood, to kick for the sticks on at least one occasion and possibly two. Lancaster hinted at something similar yesterday after reviewing the game with his players, although he steered well clear of dishing out criticism of the personal variety.

Yet the coach's insistence that this was not a "black-and-white" issue probably resonated with a good proportion of the regulars in the Twickenham stands, who have watched deeply conservative England teams err on the side of caution for much of the last decade and now respond with enthusiasm to something just a little more daring.

Heaven knows, a driving maul from a five-metre line-out is not the height of rugby artistry, but only a dyed-in-the-wool curmudgeon would vilify a captain for attempting to overturn a six-point deficit with a converted try rather than chip away at it with the boot.

This is an inexperienced England side – nine of last weekend's starting line-up, including Robshaw, were still in single figures on the international cap count – and its members are brimming with good intentions. Some of their ideas will inevitably fall victim to the law of unintended consequences while others will be abandoned as naive or unworkable, but at least there is a spirit of can-do optimism about the current set-up. Compare that to the joyless negativity running through the team during last year's World Cup campaign in New Zealand.

As a general rule of thumb in Test rugby, you kick your goals as and when they arise. But is Robshaw really to be damned for thinking he and his fellow forwards had their Wallaby opponents by the balls, and that their hearts and minds would surely follow? He thought wrong, as it turned out, but at least he was being bold.

Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice