Andy Robinson, the England head coach presiding over a record-equalling run of seven defeats with the possibility of adding to that total over the next 12 days, will today discuss his immediate future with the two most powerful men at the Rugby Football Union, the chief executive, Francis Baron, and the elite rugby director, Rob Andrew.
Robinson wants to continue in his post, despite the fresh agonies of Saturday's desperate performance against Argentina, and has the support of senior figures at Twickenham who are horrified by the prospect of a high-profile sacking so soon after the bloodshed of last spring's coaching clearout. There is, though, a growing feeling that he is a "dead man walking".
The coach insisted yesterday that he had no intention of tendering his resignation, although he did briefly consider the move in the minutes following the Pumas' 25-18 victory - their first over England outside Buenos Aires. "After reflecting on the game, I do feel really down," he said. "I'm under no illusions about my position but I won't resign. I know people want to see results, but a little bit of patience is also needed. It's a hard quality to show at the moment but we need a clear head, because there is a good England team unfolding."
The pressure is building on Baron and Andrew to take action. This is considered unlikely while Robinson is on active duty. The Springboks, drawn with England at next year's World Cup, have arrived for a two-Test series. The sensible approach would be to maintain continuity until Saturday week.
Andrew's position is particularly complicated. The former Lions outside-half and Newcastle director of rugby was appointed as a direct consequence of last season's failure in the Six Nations Championship, and given considerable access to, and authority over, the coaching set-up. Sir Clive Woodward, the World Cup-winning coach whom Andrew beat to the job, took the view that the elite director should not involve himself with the England team on a day-by-day basis, but lost the argument. As a result, Andrew now finds himself participating in selection with the man many now want him to sack.
Some members of the RFU's Club England committee are worried Baron and Andrew will reach their own decision regarding Robinson's future. "It will be very interesting to see how this plays out," said one RFU source yesterday. "The constitution says any change of personnel of this magnitude should be discussed fully at committee level. The last thing we need is a knee-jerk reaction. Let's take a sober, reasoned look at things when we have all the evidence, which means after the series with the Springboks." The Club England chairman is the former centre John Spencer, who captained the side through the opening stages of their last seven-match losing run, in 1971. That sequence ended with a win over South Africa. It is not much for Robinson to cling to, but at the moment it is all he has - this and the fact that Andrew has spent much of November pledging him his loyalty. The next few days will be trying indeed, for everyone involved.
Robbo's replacement? The runners and riders
* JOHN WELLS
One of the best flankers never to play for England, the former Leicester head coach now runs the red-rose pack and sits in on selection. Highly regarded by the Rugby Football Union.
* BRIAN ASHTON
Back in the Twickenham fold as the team's attacking strategist, he would find himself in the peculiar position of replacing his own protégé. The great ideas man of English rugby.
* RICHARD HILL
No one seriously doubts he will be head coach of England one day. The former Test scrum-half has worked miracles at Bristol and is eminently qualified for the top job.
* DEAN RYAN
The big bad wolf of the English game, a ferocious back-rower in his day, has taken a young Gloucester side to the top of the Premiership and proved himself a shrewd analyst of modern rugby.
* ROB ANDREW
Should Robinson go, the newly appointed elite rugby director might be tempted to fill the vacuum as a short-term measure. There again, his job description may prevent him from doing so.
Should Robinson go now?
SIMON HALLIDAY, Former England centre, RFU council member and member of Club England committee
This is not really about an individual. It should be remembered that originally there were only going to be three autumn Tests and the players would have come into the Argentina game fired up and fit. Instead they came into it on the back of a heavy defeat against New Zealand.
The performance was unacceptable - the guys did not want to wear the shirt. So the question should be: has Andy lost the players? Or are they still prepared to play for him? There must be collective responsibility running through the RFU, Premier Rugby and the Professional Rugby Players' Association. The question of whether to stay or go should be asked of those people because they make the decisions.
GEOFF COOKE, Former England coach
With such a very poor run of results and the manner of the defeat, it is very difficult as a coach to sustain your credibility. There will be calls for changes, but I can't see who would take his place. Andy hasn't done well, he has made some poor selections, the team looks leaderless and shapeless. But whether you benefit by changing at this stage is debatable.
JEFF PROBYN, Former England prop and ex-RFU Council member
If he is sacked it will be a knee-jerk decision. There has to be collective responsibility. Some of the substitutions against Argentina looked pre-planned - they must have been made in the full knowledge of Rob Andrew.
The other coaches, Brian Ashton and John Wells, must also take some criticism. Both England's tries came from individual efforts. You would have thought by now that they have had long enough to put together a more concerted team effort.
STEVE HANSEN, Former Wales coach, now New Zealand forwards coach
England are not so far away. They are at halfway house and Andy Robinson's situation is not unlike myself when I was with Wales. Andy has got to stick with his attacking plan. It's no good changing now.Reuse content