Rugby: England's defence coach Andy Farrell hits back at World Cup critics

England backs coach Andy Farrell at a press conference on Oct 5.
England backs coach Andy Farrell at a press conference on Oct 5. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (GUARDIAN) - England's backs coach, Andy Farrell, has robustly denied accusations that he had an undue influence over selection, particularly over the choice of Sam Burgess for the game against Wales , and insisted that when the team's four-man coaching panel did not agree Stuart Lancaster always had the casting vote.

As the bookmakers' odds tumbled on Lancaster leaving before the next Six Nations in the wake of their disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign, Farrell mounted a vigorous defence of his head coach, calling him a "brilliant" man who deserved another chance after doing "marvellous things for the country".

Farrell, who works alongside the forwards coach, Graham Rowntree, and skills coach, Mike Catt, in helping Lancaster select the team, said the four men rarely disagreed.

"We have all been unanimous in selection and nothing has ever changed in the last three and a half years," he said. "I can't remember one incident where any one of us was upset at something that hadn't happened.

"And ultimately, as Stuart always says, he will make the decision. There have been plenty of times where as coaches three of you are united and you put something to Stuart and he will make the call and it's completely different.

"That's his privilege. It's Stuart's gig and we back him to the hilt. We all work under his umbrella - and that umbrella is a brilliant place to work."

Farrell insisted that Lancaster had built "rock-solid foundations" during his three and a half years in charge and said that, despite England's defeats by Wales and Australia , he deserves to stay on.

"We have lost two games and people will try to define us with those two defeats but what Stuart has built here was more than that," he said. "Stuart's leadership has been built on rock-solid foundations.

"He's the proudest Englishman and the hardest-working Englishman that I have ever met. He's done some famous things for this team. We've had some big wins and losses along the way but internally we know the score."

Farrell also dismissed reports that there was frustration in the squad over the perceived preferential treatment of Burgess, who was rushed through from rugby league to the England squad in under a year.

"I don't believe the players would say that," he said. "Sam works unbelievably hard and gives his all on his team. He's put a tremendous amount of effort in. He's been selfless to the team in helping lead the boys and galvanising everyone together. He's priceless, as far as I'm concerned."

But Farrell refused to comment on reports that two members of the England coaching team are being investigated by World Rugby for an alleged breach of protocol in the game against Australia.

The RFU refused to name the two who are believed to have approached match officials during the tunnel at half-time during the 33-13 defeat, and Farrell said the team would not say anything until "the process had taken its course".

Lancaster is expected to select several of England's fringe players when he announces his team for Uruguay on Tuesday afternoon, with Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, David Wilson and Jamie George all likely to get the nod, but Farrell said that everyone in the 31-man England squad was desperate to play in their final game of the tournament at Manchester City's stadium.

"There's devastation in the camp," he admitted. "We feel like we have let everyone down. It's devastating for everyone and none more so than for the people who have worked unbelievably hard for 14 weeks and the years before that.

"We are all mourning together but we have got to man up. We have a job to do. It's the first time we are playing up north since 2009.

"It's not a great situation for the fans who will come to that game knowing we've been knocked out and we're sorry for that, but we'll try our best to at least put on a performance to put a wry smile on people's faces."