Robinson surveys damage after French defeat

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The Independent Online

Robinson, a decent man who prizes loyalty above virtually every other human quality, may initially have been of a mind to retain his first-choice side for this Saturday's championship finale against Ireland, on the grounds that his players are yearning for a chance to right the wrongs committed at the Stade de France. In reality, though, inaction is not an option.

The world champions' 31-6 humiliation at the hands of a Tricolore team performing some way short of optimum left the coach with no choice but to look very hard at his back-row unit, his half-back combination and his centre pairing, which is not only firing blanks but doing it with all the accuracy of a blunderbuss-wielding dowager at a duck shoot. The fact that Robinson has so few candidates forinside-centre in the absence of Olly Barkleyunderlines the difficulty of the decisions he faces.

Martin Corry, the captain, performed magnificently on Sunday and is assured of his place at Twickenham. Likewise, the tight forwards can expect to be retained en bloc. The English scrum provided the one flicker of light in the darkness and while Pat Sanderson of Worcester would certainly be recalled to the flank were he fit for duty, there is a chance that a lack of immediate alternatives will grant the Joe Worsley-Lewis Moody axis a stay of execution.

There are few, if any, certainties among the backs, however. So many senior players are out of form, from Matt Dawson at scrum-half to Josh Lewsey at full-back, that Robinson cannot afford to do nothing, even though the something he needs to do is not immediately obvious. He would kill for Barkley's services, but cannot have them yet. The outside-centre Mathew Tait would be well worth a shot, even against the likes of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy, but he is on Commonwealth Games duty in Melbourne.

Time for James Simpson-Daniel of Gloucester to be given a proper chance? Probably. No, definitely.