England lost Andrew Sheridan to rugby’s equivalent of friendly fire as tetchy stand-in manager Rob Andrew lobbed a few grenades into the All Blacks camp – aimed at Richie McCaw’s alleged offside play, New Zealand forward passes and criticism of the English scrum.
The NZPA reports that after regretting a facial laceration that forced his premier prop to withdraw from Saturday night’s second and final test at Christchurch’s AMI Stadium, Andrew took aim at All Blacks captain McCaw, the All Black scrum and Welsh match official Nigel Owens.
He also pleaded for coaches to be able to discuss contentious issues with referees in the lead-up to a test – a practice the International Rugby Board’s referees’ boss Paddy O’Brien outlawed at last year’s World Cup.
As the England squad sought to mentally and physically regroup after a 37-20 defeat in Auckland on Saturday, the temporary English manager went on the offensive by first intimating McCaw escaped scot-free at the breakdown.
While England had Sheridan – whose tour was ended by an accidental boot sprig to the face by teammate Lee Mears – and Mike Tindall yellow-carded for infringements at the tackle, Andrew was surprised McCaw escaped serious censure from Owen.
“I’m going to give Richie McCaw an England shirt so when he comes in on our side he’s got a white shirt on,” Andrew said in response to claims England were cynical at the tackle situation.
He also took issue with All Black coach Graham Henry’s gripe that England scrummed “passively” in the final quarter as the game became disjointed.
“Most of the collapses were actually on our ball, we’re not very keen on collapsing our own scrum,” bristled Andrew who then rounded on Owens.
“We weren’t happy with the way the scrums were managed and there are some issues which (scrum coach) Graham (Rountree) and John Wells (forwards coach) are looking at in terms of the engagement.”
He was also unhappy Owens was staying in the All Blacks hotel in Auckland: “I was a bit surprised … maybe that was just one of those administrative issues that needs to be looked at.”
Andrew said he would have appreciated an opportunity to clarify points with Owens before the test – and also meet with South African referee Jonathan Kaplan, who controls this week’s test.
“It’s a difficult area because coaches will try and influence the referee and Paddy tried to put an end to all the games that were going on.
“I understand that but there are a lot of changes going on in the game.”
Andrew said the transition between the experimental law variations (ELVS) and the “old” laws were confusing for players and officials alike.
On a recent IRB edict requiring referees to clamp down on hand at the ruck and players who seal the ball off at the breakdown, Andrew said those areas were still open to interpretation.
“They (referees) would probably appreciate it (talks) as well but we all have to go through Paddy, that’s the ruling and he’s in Cardiff with the under-20 world championships.”
Andrew also claimed two of the All Blacks four tries – by fullback Mils Muliaina and winger Sitiveni Sivivatu – should have been ruled out because of forward passes in the build-up.
Still, despite his list of grievances, Andrew could not deny his team were also their own worst enemies in Auckland.
“What really hurt us was the simple mistakes.
“They have an ability with the ball in hand, there’s no question about that, but we made it easy for them, they didn’t have to work for the tries against us.”
Costly defensive lapses will force personnel changes when the second test team is announced tomorrow, with pivot Charlie Hodgson almost certain to be axed.
London Wasps prop Tim Payne is one definite change after Sheridan needed 12 stitches to close a gash under his left eyebrow.
He has been told to rest for a fortnight – ending his long season a game prematurely.
Uncapped Newcastle Falcons prop David Wilson arrives in Christchurch early tomorrow as cover after being recalled from the England Saxons squad contesting the Churchill Cup in Chicago.
Payne earned the last of his six caps in the Six Nations clash with Italy in February and had been in line for a World Cup berth earlier until he suffered a knee injury.
Meanwhile, Andrew curtly dismissed a radio report that Sheridan was among England players seen drinking at the Viaduct Basin near the team hotel into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“Are we in New Zealand? Yeah, thought so.”Tweet