ER captain Will Carling aimed a swipe at the England camp and accused the current squad of lacking leadership quality yesterday, accusations which were subsequently rebuffed by coach Andy Farrell.
Carling criticised the decision to opt for an attacking line-out as opposed to a kick at goal in the dying embers of England’s 28-25 defeat to Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, as well as team selection for the clash. But his most damning verdict was reserved for head coach and ex-teacher Stuart Lancaster, who he claimed has failed to cultivate an ethos of individual responsibility, instead choosing to run the England squad in a classroom manner.
“It is disappointing from someone who is not in the environment,” said Farrell. “I have been involved in many environments and this is as good as I have ever seen. It allows them to express themselves as leaders and as players.”
England are likely to be teetering on the brink of World Cup extinction should they fail to beat Australia at Twickenham on Saturday, while the three points spurned in that now infamous penalty decision against Wales could have boosted their qualification hopes.
Carling, who was capped 73 times between 1988 and 1997, including 59 as captain, and led England to the 1991 World Cup final, insisted that Lancaster was the root cause of that ill-advised move, especially his inability to create a culture of leadership evident.
“I got the sense that England were panicking. I don’t blame Chris [Robshaw] as much as I blame others. I blame the environment,” said Carling.
“We have a very prescriptive environment in the England team. I’ve listened to Stuart Lancaster say for years that ‘I don’t have the leaders and therefore we’re having to make all the decisions as coaches’. It’s a very classroom orientated environment.
“My view is that he has had leaders and that he needed to have trusted them and develop them. What we watched in the last 10 minutes was a confused debate between people who have never been given responsibility to lead and drive the team. Instead, we’ve treated them as schoolboys.”
Carling believes England need to adopt a different mindset against the Wallabies, and restoring fly-half George Ford to the No10 position and uniting Owen Farrell and rookie Henry Slade in a centre pairing is something Lancaster ought to consider.