England captain Chris Robshaw backed by Australia's Berrick Barnes

England's under-fire captain Chris Robshaw, whose leadership has been questioned after his dithering over whether to kick penalties on consecutive weekends at Twickenham this month, has received support from an unlikely source, Australia.

The Wallabies defeated England 20-14 two weeks ago when their hosts turned down the chance to kick a penalty four times in the second half, twice opting for driving lineouts that failed to produce a try. Robshaw was criticised for not taking the points then and castigated for pointing to the posts two minutes from time against South Africa last Saturday when his side was four points behind rather than go for a driving lineout.

"We had a close game against England and there was not a lot in it," said the Australia full-back Berrick Barnes. "A few decisions here and there and games change. Chris Robshaw is copping a lot of flak, but he is a bloody good player and the man to lead England. You are going to make some boobies and he will learn from them. What is clear is that England are on the right lines.

"They are using Alex Goode as their second playmaker from full-back, a role I have been filling this month for Australia with Kurtley Beale at fly-half. Having two playmakers seems to have gone from 10-12 to 10-15. My job is to take the pressure off Kurtley when I can and he managed the game really well against England and he is growing at 10."

Barnes will win his 50th cap against Wales on Saturday having made his first start for the Wallabies at the Millennium Stadium in 2007, when he played at fly-half. It will be Australia's 16th Test in the last 12 months, more than any other leading nation with Wales and New Zealand reaching 14 on Saturday.

"We have got 80 minutes left and have to make sure we leave the tank empty," he said. "We have a number of things to play for: it will be Nathan Sharpe's last Test and to finish the year second in the world rankings would be huge. It was where we started and would be reward for a lot of the hard work people have put in, especially the coaching staff.

"We have been like a hotel this year with people coming left, right and centre to stay and then leaving again. It is good to be winning my 50th cap in Cardiff, a city where I have had some good times. The people here have a really good grasp of rugby and a passion for the game. We get on well with the Welsh boys, who are a really good bunch of lads. It is back to the old school: you rip in on the field and have a beer and a chinwag afterwards. That's how footy should be."

While Australia are playing for second place in the rankings and Wales need to win to avoid dropping out of the top eight ahead of Monday's World Cup draw in London, Barnes believes that there is little to choose between the top 10 nations in the world, with the exception of New Zealand.

"We were disappointed at our second-half performance in Italy. If you look at the top 10 nations in the world, leaving out the All Blacks, anyone can give anyone else a run on their day. Italy are playing with a lot more movement now and with a set-piece as good as theirs, it is the way to go. I predict they will cause a few upsets in the Six Nations next year."

While Barnes regards Cardiff as his home from home, the wing Nick Cummins will be making his first appearance at the Millennium Stadium looking to add to the tries he scored against England and Italy. "This is our last Test before the Lions next year and there are two things we need to do before that series," he said.

"First we must finish the tour on a good note, giving us something to build on when we get back, and then we need to have a well-earned break to freshen the mind so you have the eye of the tiger when you come back, a burning desire to get into them. We have had to try a number of players this year because of injuries, and if everyone is fit for the Lions we will have a good stock to pick from."

Wales have been plagued by injuries this month and are looking for their first victory in the autumn series. "It's probably the most difficult period of my career," said the scrum-half, Mike Phillips. "It's strange, it wasn't that long ago that we won the Six Nations – it's still the same year. Welsh rugby is crazy; it's like EastEnders. We've been knocked out of World Cups and then won a grand slam. It must be quite entertaining, but as a player you feel the lows. We are working hard and I am sure there are some big wins around the corner."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Paul Rees, for The Guardian on Tuesday 27th November 2012 19.14 Europe/London

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