Danny Care believes Marcus Smith did not make the decision to kick the ball out to end the game after England drew level with New Zealand.
England looked dead and buried against the All Blacks as they trailed by 19 points with just 10 minutes to go, but a remarkable comeback saw Eddie Jones’ side score three tries in quick succession to make it 25-all.
Tom Curry claimed the ball for England from the kick off in the final phase of play, but instead of looking to attack 14-man New Zealand from inside their own half, the ball was thrown deep to Smith who promptly kicked it off the pitch and ended the game.
Smith’s Harlequins team mate Danny Care was speaking on the BBC Rugby Union daily podcast after the game, and was confident that the England out-half was not behind the idea to take the draw.
Danny Care on Marcus Smith kicking the ball out.
“I think if there’s one person on that pitch that wouldn’t have wanted to kick that ball out, it’s the man that actually did in Marcus Smith,” Care said.
“There’s obviously been a shout from someone. He almost looks around for a couple of seconds and then I think gets a nod from someone to kick the ball out, and kicks it out.
“If you’re an England fan or an England player and there’s 10 minutes to go, you’re down by 19 and you end up drawing the game, you would take that. You would bite the hand off.
“But it was a strange decision from whoever shouted, ‘Kick the ball off.’ I think Beauden Barrett was still in the bin, so they were playing against 14.
“I think looking back, England might go, ‘Why didn’t we just try?’ Why didn’t we try just a few phases and see what was going on?”
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 19, 2022
England are a very difficult team to gauge at the moment.
With the Rugby World Cup less than 10 months away, it is still incredibly difficult to gauge just how good England are at the moment after such inconsistent performances.
England endured another poor Six Nations in which they won just two of their five matches, before getting back on track by beating Australia 2-1 in a test series Down Under, but then suffered a shock defeat to Argentina in their first game in November.
A big win against Japan suggested that loss to Argentina was a blip, although England were utterly rudderless for 70 minutes against New Zealand and looked especially clueless in attack.
The final 10 minutes against New Zealand was some of the best rugby that any team has played this year however, which means England head into their last game of 2022 against South Africa as an enigma.