LONDON: England coach Stuart Lancaster has apologised to a crushed nation, conceding it’s “not up to me” whether he remains in charge of the first host team in World Cup history to be knocked out of the tournament in the group stages.
The Wallabies delivered a fatal blow to England’s World Cup dream with a Bernard Foley inspired 33-13 win at Twickenham on Saturday night.
Lancaster and England captain Chris Robshaw said they were “gutted” as the reality of an early World Cup exit started to sink in.
Foley finished with 28 points and Matt Giteau rubbed salt into England’s wounds with a last-minute try which fired the Wallabies’ first real warning shot to the rest of the tournament.
Lancaster has a contract to stay on as coach until 2020, but the UK press is certain to turn up the heat after an embarrassing and humiliating end to his World Cup journey.
“I’m just gutted. Gutted for all the fans and for everyone at home,” Lancaster said. “Everyone has put so much effort in and the support has been fantastic. Sorry that we let everyone down.
“The first half we went in 17-3 and I thought that was a tough scoreline. We got back in the game at 20-13, but the last 5-10 minutes I thought Australia dominated.
“There are some fantastic young players in that England team, there are 24 players in their first World Cup and it will hurt so badly. But we’re a good team and I want the country to stay behind the lads.”
Asked if he would stay behind them, Lancaster said: “That’s not up to me really. I’ve just got to get them ready for next week.”
Foley was outstanding, but the Wallabies’ scrum dismantled England to get revenge for a quarter-final battle in Marseille in 2007.
Eight years ago the England scrum embarrassed Australia’s big men and proved the deciding factor in a World Cup quarter-final. But this time the Wallabies’ forward pack muscled up and destroyed England’s supposed strength, forcing penalties and marching all over a defeated and dejected England pack.
It was a superb display from the scrum, which has been scrutinised and picked apart by northern hemisphere opponents for years.
Robshaw admitted his leadership would also be put under scrutiny this week and he faces tough questions about his captaincy job.
“As you can imagine the changeroom is a really quiet place. Gutted,” Robshaw said.
“We felt we let the country down today and over the course of the tournament … we didn’t quite get there so we apologise to them.
“Credit to Australia, they played well. But I’m just gutted.”
The Wallabies were basking in the glory of booking their place in the quarter finals. If they beat Wales in Cardiff next weekend, they will finish at the top of pool A with a quarter-final clash likely against Scotland or Japan.
The Wallabies will assess their injury concerns on Monday. Winger Rob Horne dislocated his shoulder and his World Cup tournament could be over while Israel Folau injured his ankle and Matt Giteau suffered a sternum problem.
“This whole journey is about ourselves, we’ve still got a lot to do and we come up against the mastercoach [Wales mentor Warren Gatland] next week,” said Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
“We’ve got to stay real, be humble and get on to the next day preparation and get better.
“You’ve got to keep the crowd out of the game [at Twickenham], it’s like a tsunami.”
The Wallabies’ scrum was outstanding, erasing demons of the past where England teams have trampled all over the Australian pack.
They won penalties and beat England at their own set-piece game.
“In any big Test like this, the set-piece is key and we knew it was going to be like that,” said Wallabies captain Stephen Moore.
“It’s important now to get back to the drawing board. It’s all about Wales from tomorrow and once again the set piece will be key.”
Cheika praised five-eighth Foley, who scored 28 points to pass Matt Burke’s highest individual tally for a Wallaby against England.
“Bernard was influential. I know he got points, but he also stood up to take responsibility,” Cheika said.
“He was prepared to guide the team around … you can never take that stuff for granted. It’s up to the [five-eighth] to stand up and quarterback the team, Bernard did that quite well tonight.”