LONDON // Stuart Lancaster hailed England’s 20-13 victory over Australia at Twickenham on Saturday as “a great start” to the autumn internationals.
Second-half tries by captain Chris Robshaw and fly-half Owen Farrell, who also kicked 10 points, guided England home after they trailed 13-6 at the interval.
While much of the performance was dour and dogged, rather than exhilarating attacking rugby, England coach Lancaster was delighted to avenge last season’s home defeat against the Wallabies, who are in England’s 2015 World Cup group.
“I was delighted with the composure we showed in the second half and I thought we deserved the win,” he said.
“We had some big players missing, three players making their first start in a Test match at Twickenham, a new guy running the lineout and Australia had been together since before the [British & Irish] Lions series.
“To go out and get the win like we did, it is a great start for us.
“Last year, we lost to Australia in the equivalent game, which put us under pressure. It is a lot easier to build momentum from a win.”
These remain dark times for Australia, who were kept scoreless after the break. This was an eighth defeat in 11 Test matches in a year that already contains a series defeat to the Lions and a third-place finish in the Rugby Championship where their only wins came against Argentina.
“It’s another learning process for us,” said the Wallabies No 8 Ben Mowen, who was captain after James Horwill was stripped of the armband this week. “We’ll take a lot of good things out of today, especially from the first half, and try and fix the things that didn’t go so well in the second.”
The game was watched by members of England’s 2003 World Cup-winning squad, including captain Martin Johnson and drop-goal hero Jonny Wilkinson, as the 10th anniversary of that final victory over Australia in Sydney looms.
Lancaster said: “We were very aware of them being in the crowd and we wanted to do them proud. They inspire the players in our team with their achievements.
Ewen McKenzie, the Australia coach, said his team had been punished for their second-half display, when they conceded 14 unanswered points.
And there were Australian concerns about England’s opening try, which was started by a Mile Brown break, although replays appeared to show the fullback had his foot on the touchline.
“That was a 90-metre turnaround and there is seven points at the end of it. Theoretically, we should have been having a lineout five metres out (from England’s line). You can’t say those things don’t have an impact on the game, but I guess that is the vagaries of rugby,” said McKenzie, who also thought England’s second try should have been ruled out for an obstruction.
“We can debate those things until you are blue in the face. It’s not going to change the outcome.”
Andy Farrell, the England backs coach, saluted debutant centre Joel Tomkins, whose first Test in the white shirt came on the same day as his brother Sam lined up for England’s Rugby League World Cup rugby league team against Ireland.
Like Tomkins, Farrell had also switched rugby codes and progressed to England’s 15-a-side team.
“The hardest thing is the pressure you put on yourself,” Farrell said. “You know the spotlight is on you. You have come over from another code and there is a bit more heat on your back.
“Joel stood up in front of the boys on Thursday and he told them the reason why he came over was to wear the shirt and his main focus was to do his teammates proud. It was an emotional day for him today.”
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE