Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Robinson's future depends on results of S Africa games

AFP , LONDON

The good news for Andy Robinson is that he has been given two matches to save himself from the sack. The bad news for the beleaguered England coach is that they are both against the Springboks.

With English rugby reeling from the humiliation of Saturday's Twickenham defeat by Argentina, Robinson has been told in no uncertain terms that his future depends on the outcome of the upcoming back-to-back Tests against South Africa.

Even two wins might not be enough to save Robinson from paying the price for presiding over an extraordinary slump in England's fortunes since Jonny Wilkinson kicked them to World Cup glory in Sydney three years ago.

The defeat by Argentina represented a new nadir.

Never before had the Pumas beaten England at their base and their victory represented a seventh straight defeat for Robinson and his men: an eighth on Saturday would be unprecedented in English rugby history.

Elite Rugby Director Rob Andrew pulled no punches in his assessment of the performance against Argentina, branding the error-strewn display unacceptable.

"If you make those number of mistakes at international level, no matter who you are playing, then you are not going to win the game," Andrew said after two hours of crisis talks with Robinson on Monday, which many had expected to lead to the head coach stepping down immediately.

"It was poor -- it was unacceptable. Andy is very disappointed and fans showed their disappointment, quite rightly," Andrew added.

Andrew said the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was not interested in taking "knee-jerk" decisions in the middle of a four-Test autumn series.

But what followed will have sounded ominous for Robinson, who clearly has an uneasy relationship with the man who was brought in as his boss in a management shake-up earlier this year.

Andrew vowed: "There will be a review of the players, coaches, performances and results -- you would expect that."

"I think we took a step back against Argentina. There were some good signs [in the 41-20 defeat] against New Zealand, some signs of progress, but that progress wasn't maintained against Argentina," Andrew said. "Had it been maintained, I think we would have won the game, but we didn't."

England have now lost 12 out of 20 Tests they have played since Robinson succeeded Sir Clive Woodward and the extent of their decline has been underlined by the latest International Rugby Board rankings, which show that Robinson's squad had been overtaken by Argentina.

The Pumas are up to sixth in the world, their highest ever spot and one place above England.

Robinson, a former Bath and England flanker who served as Woodward's assistant at the last World Cup, has come to be seen as a man out of his depth in the role that his predecessor filled so brilliantly.

"World Chumps," was how one newspaper summed up Saturday's performance and Robinson has been widely savaged for his perceived failure to cultivate a new generation of England players.

Another view is that England's decline has coincided with the quality of players available to Robinson, who has been particularly unfortunate to have been without the injured Wilkinson for virtually his entire time in charge.

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