Saturday 25 November 2017

England players try to ignore deafening criticism as they gear up for make-or-break Australia clash

Richard Wigglesworth of England during a press conference
Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne
Richard Wigglesworth of England during a press conference Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne Livepic

The England camp are trying desperately to distance themselves from criticism of their performance against Wales last week, with skills coach Mike Catt dismissing it as “irrelevant white noise”.

Though England played well for the first hour of Saturday’s Pool A match, they also allowed Wales to stay in touch through a series of penalties and the decision-making that led to the late call not to kick for a potentally score-levelling goal has been widely attacked in the wake of Wales’s 28-25 victory.

Former England captain Will Carling was among the most outspoken, when he said there was a prescriptive environment and that the players were treated as schoolboys.

Catt, a World Cup winner in 2003, said the team were ignoring such comments.

“The criticism is external white noise, which is irrelevant,” he said.

“We are massively excited that we’ve got Australia at Twickenham and everything is on this one game for us.”

Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, who is in line for a possible start on Saturday if Ben Youngs fails to recover from an ankle injury, said Carling, who played the last of his 73 internationals 18 years ago, was out of touch.

“Certain people who have come out and said things should know better,” he said. “Let’s have a meaningful discussion about his knowledge, about what he knows about the game. He is there to further his own career.”

Catt has long experience of external and internal criticism, having been dropped and recalled probably more times than any other England player en route to winning 75 caps over a 13-year test career that included two World Cup finals.

“If you get concerned about the external effects you are not in a good place,” he said. “Our job is to beat Australia.

“Whoever we pick we have total belief that we can score tries. We are doing everything to make sure we get it right. We are very confident with the players making the right decisions.


“Australia are a dangerous side but there is a massive belief that we will go out and play.” 

Carling responded to Wigglesworth via a short video clip posted on his Twitter account.

“Some of the coaches feel that if you criticise you’re not a supporter, but I don’t believe that,” Carling said. “I don’t believe that going ‘rah rah’ England with your eyes closed means you’re a great England supporter. The players and coaches have to be honest with each other.

“I know Richard Wigglesworth has said what the hell do I know about rugby and he’s got a point because I’m an old fart.

“But if we ignore the faults, ignore what went wrong, we’ll be very vulnerable.”

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