“They did that but the pleasing thing is that we stuck to the way we wanted to play and no-one went off-script”
England scrumhalf Ben Youngs said Saturday’s victory over Australia showed how the team have developed their resilience and ability to remain calm under pressure after being questioned over those areas during past setbacks.
England withstood a furious early assault from Australia to ease to a 17-9 half-time lead. They had to repel them again when they closed to within a point early in the second half and again later when the Wallabies pressured their line with a series of scrums around the hour-mark.
They weathered those storms superbly then hit back to eventually run out impressive 40-16 winners and set up a semi-final with New Zealand.
“There have been times (in other games) where we have been a bit under the cosh and allowed cheap points and against Australia I thought the work we had done in the pre-season paid off,” Youngs said.
“We don’t get that much time together normally, but the World Cup is different with a huge period together and you are able to create bonds and invest more time in each other and when it gets tough you can trust each other because you have that club feel. That showed when they were challenging our line and coming and coming. I thought that was a tremendous defensive effort.”
England’s most spectacular implosion was when they led Scotland 31-0 late in the first half at Twickenham in this year’s Six Nations, then conceded 38 points, before snatching a 38-all draw.
Despite regular huddles after every Scottish try, England’s players seemed incapable of holding on to the ball and questions were asked of captain Owen Farrell’s leadership.
On Saturday, however, they remained calm and, crucially, struck back quickly after Marika Koroibete’s try had made it a one-point game, as Kyle Sinckler blasted over two minutes later to give them breathing space.
“Some of the guys would have rather the game not to have got that tight, Australia were going to chuck the kitchen sink at us and the way they play they are always going to create opportunities,” Youngs said.
“They did that but the pleasing thing is that we stuck to the way we wanted to play and no-one went off-script. No-one tried to solve it on their own and we eventually ground them down.”
Meanwhile, Australia coach Michael Cheika said yesterday he would not seek to be re-appointed when his contract expires at the end of 2019, bringing an end to his often troubled five years in charge.
The Wallabies were knocked out of the World Cup in the quarter-finals on Saturday when they were well beaten 40-16 by an England side coached by compatriot Eddie Jones. Cheika, nicknamed ‘Cheik’, had previously said he would step down if Australia did not improve on their run to the final in 2015 and win the World Cup for a third time in Japan.