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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 09:56 GMT
Exposed England missing Wilkinson
By Matt Majendie
BBC Sport at Twickenham

There can be few more damning indictments for a professional rugby player than being replaced after just 26 minutes.

But England centre Henry Paul was on the receiving end of just that against Australia as coach Andy Robinson removed him from the game and brought on Will Greenwood before Paul had barely even broken a sweat.

Henry Paul
Initial reactions from the crowd suggested the former rugby league man had been carrying some indiscernible injury.

Robinson, though, made it clear afterwards the player had "made a number of mistakes and Will Greenwood seemed a better option".

Captain Jason Robinson was rather kinder. "I think quite a few of us could have come off before half-time we were playing that badly," he said.

But to many at Twickenham, Paul looked completely lost as the half dragged on, producing two diabolical forward passes.

Greenwood was certainly a popular choice when he came on and his arrival seemed to add a bit more bite to England's heart.

Paul's ruthless substitution raises the question whether Robinson was right to have had him on the field in the first place.

He looked great against Canada, showing the sort of mesmeric running style with which he made his name in his previous code.

But no disrespect to the Canadians, their defence was nowhere near that of the Wallabies' and Paul had a scandalous amount of time for decision making.

That was certainly not the case against Australia, or South Africa the previous week. He was rushed into everything he did and a large question mark must now hang over his England future.

But the decision to remove Paul left England with one big dilemma. Should fly-half Charlie Hodgson pick up a knock, the world champions would be without a recognised goal-kicker and playmaker.

Sure enough Hodgson picked up a dead leg and a somewhat farcical scene followed as he left the field.

Charlie Hodgson
Hodgson struggled with his kicking even before his injury
First Andy Gomarsall stepped up for the sort of spot kick a back-row forward might have been disappointed to miss. Sadly he failed with it.

So Mike Tindall took over the duties, successfully as it turned out on the day.

But Hodgson's absence left England with a bigger problem than how to slot the ball between the uprights. They had no controller of the game.

Gomarsall did his best as he was moved across to fly-half but he hardly has the guile and years of experience needed to be a world beater at number 10.

To England's credit, they played to their strengths with him on the field. Rather than go for goal with penalties, they kicked for the corner and scored a try as a result.

And to further credit them, they came mightily close to beating Australia.

Andy Robinson dwelled on the positives of three autumn internationals where England surprised everyone.

The team that were trounced by New Zealand and Australia in the summer have matured massively, and their new faces - bar Paul - have truly impressed.

But certain worries must remain. Even prior to their fly-half rejig on Saturday, Hodgson - the star against South Africa the previous week - was way off target with his spot kicking.

England kicking coach Dave Aldred insisted there was no cause for concern after the match.

But the coaching staff must at least be a little worried. After all the talk of "Jonny who?" after the Springboks' defeat, it is now the case that Jonny Wilkinson's return cannot come soon enough.

Interview: England coach Andy Robinson

Interviews: England and Australia match reaction

Interview: Australia coach Eddie Jones

England 19-21 Australia
27 Nov 04 |  Internationals
Robinson laments England errors
27 Nov 04 |  Internationals
Jones celebrates Aussie success
27 Nov 04 |  Internationals

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