England head coach Stuart Lancaster has acknowledged “everything rests” on the outcome of Saturday’s World Cup clash with Australia.
Wales’ stunning 28-25 victory at Twickenham left the hosts’ quest teetering on the brink of collapse, having been in a seemingly comfortable position at 10 points ahead with half an hour remaining of a match they had dominated.
Repeated indiscipline at the breakdown allowed Wales to claw their way back into contention through the boot of Dan Biggar, even as Warren Gatland’s men contended with a sickening series of second-half injuries.
There was a horrible inevitability about the final 10 minutes as momentum swung behind the courageous Welsh, with Gareth Davies capitalising on poor defence to cross under the posts before Biggar landed the winning penalty with five minutes remaining.
“I don’t think we choked. What we did do is allow Wales to stay in the game,” said Lancaster, whose attention has now turned to the crucial weekend encounter with the Wallabies.
“We can’t be sitting feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in.
“On Monday morning when the players come in they will be ready to go straight away. I am ready to go and If I am ready to go, I can guarantee they will be.”
“Everything rests on Australia – it’s knock-out rugby. Not in the slightest will it be hard to pick up the players.”
England enter the decisive week of Lancaster’s reign nursing a potentially damaging injury list and with a disciplinary question mark over flanker Tom Wood, however.
The plan of naming the side early in the week is likely to be abandoned as the medical team works to restore number eights Billy Vunipola and Ben Morgan, second row Courtney Lawes, scrum-half Ben Youngs and centre Jonathan Joseph to fitness.
Adding to the problems that have mounted at a critical juncture is the possible citing of Wood for an incident that forced Wales full-back Liam Williams from the field with concussion.
Wood, who has apologised to Williams, will know by Monday morning if he must face a hearing, while Lancaster has reported a mixed outlook on his wounded quintet.
“I would say 50-50 for all three of Billy, Courtney and Ben Youngs, although with Ben maybe slightly better, so let’s call it 60-40. It’s very early still,” Lancaster said.
“We’re optimistic on Ben Morgan. With Joseph we are going to have to wait and see how he trains or if he can train on Tuesday.
“We want to give Joseph the best chance possible because if he was fit, he’d be a guy we want in the team.”
If Vunipola and Morgan are ruled out and Wood is cited and subsequently suspended, England will be facing a crisis in the back row with Chris Robshaw and James Haskell their only recognised options in the position, although Sam Burgess has played at blindside flanker for Bath.