England v New Zealand: Red rose defeated by All Blacks but on the right road for 2015
England coach Stuart Lancaster hails young team's progress towards next World Cup
England's coach Stuart Lancaster refused to promise the world after his team were beaten 30-22 by the All Blacks, preferring instead to concentrate on what he sees as upward momentum.
The dominance of the All Blacks over the rest of international rugby was reinforced by the world champions' 13th straight win of 2013, enhancing their astounding record of just one loss in the last 34 matches, with the wing Julian Savea scoring two tries plus one by the No 8 Kieran Read.
For England, second-row Joe Launchbury scored his second try in consecutive Tests but the team were unable to add the most prized scalp to those of Australia and Argentina earlier this autumn.
Lancaster's team are the only ones to put a dent in that All Black winning run – at Twickenham 11 months ago – but when asked if yesterday's performance made his side genuine contenders to win the 2015 World Cup here, Lancaster said: "We don't talk in those terms. We talk about belief and building a team. We are definitely going in the right direction.
"We've got a young group of players. Our most experienced player has 59 caps, playing against a team here with four on over 100. You've got good people working hard for the shirt, a great coaching team, backroom staff, and things developing – like the English public or certainly the Twickenham crowd being 100 per cent behind the team. It's all those things helping to piece that jigsaw together to be the best you can be when the World Cup comes around. It's been about winning in the here and now but also about building the team to win in 2015 and that's still our aim."
Tom Wood bemoaned the defeat as a missed opportunity after England had fought back from trailing 17-3 after 16 minutes to lead 22-20 going into the final quarter. "Personally I feel like we blew it," the flanker said. "We gave them a 14-point head start and I don't remember that being in the game plan.
"But to show the character we did and come back into it… New Zealand must have had some demons around 60 minutes."
England were lacking last year's match-winner Manu Tuilagi among eight injured absentees and Wood said: "We've got some British Lions to come back into the squad and strengthen it. But I've got nothing but praise for the players who played today. They all fronted up, gave it their all and made their country proud.
"We've always believed that we can live with the best and compete with anybody. We're not getting ahead of ourselves but we are a combative team that fights very hard for each other. I think the All Blacks know they've been in a game today."
"England played well, there's no doubt," said Richie McCaw, the All Blacks' captain. "But when we started putting their big fellas on the ground, that stopped their momentum.
"There's not much between the top few nations in the world. I've got no doubt England along with other teams are going to be better in two years' time."
McCaw's team will complete an unprecedented clean sweep of a calendar year if they win in Ireland next Sunday.
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