Rob Webber’s starring role for England against the All Blacks in the first test match of the squad’s New Zealand tour earned him a well-deserved starting role in the second test. He also came on as a replacement in the team’s final test match.
The 27-year old former Pocklington RUFC player and Pocklington School captain’s injury ravaged season – the damage he sustained playing for Bath on 2 May that saw him leave the ground on crutches, his second serious leg injury of 2014 – was put behind him as he took the game to the world champions for 70 minutes during the first test on 7 June 2014. Although England’s marvellous display ultimately ended in defeat as New Zealand grabbed a last gasp winner to snatch a 20-15 victory, Webber was praised loud and long from all quarters by pundits and press.
During the game and at halftime he was given plaudits by Sky Sports summariser and ex-England fly half, Stuart Barnes, and by former England coach, Sir Clive Woodward. Afterwards Sean Fitzpatrick, the ex-All Blacks captain and hooker, said: “England hooker Rob Webber was outstanding. I can only assume it was because he was out of petrol that Webber was replaced around the 70-minute mark.” Sir Ian McGeechan joined in with: “Rob Webber was outstanding at hooker, too. He is a clever footballer…”
The rugby correspondents in the national press continued the
The Sunday Times quoted: “Rob Weber, back from long injury, had a magnificent match…his endurance and resistance was wonderful…A good deal of England’s impressive scrummaging power came from his bulk and competitive nature…a wonderful effort in all phases.”
The Telegraph continued in similar mode, saying: “Rob Webber was outstanding yesterday with no match fitness…Webber, playing his first game in almost two months after injury, was flawlessly crisp with his lineout throwing and solid in the scrummage where England had the upper hand.
The Guardian agreed: “Rob Webber, one of England’s best performers.”
The fulsome praise was repeated in the tabloids, with The Mail recording: “A standout effort. Good in the tight and line-out, extra option in loose…Webber made light of a lack of game-time in the last month to turn in a superb shift at hooker.
Although England were defeated in all three matches, Rob gave a very good account of himself which bodes well for the coming season and the World Cup in 2015. Watch this space!
(Main report: Phil Gilbank, 67-74, PRUFC website)