Stick to this back row and give them time to become a proper unit
Billy Vunipola is still learning that, at the highest level, his power game will not carry him far enough but look at the contrast in experience between the two units – England’s trio started with 68 caps against the 258 of their opponents.
Every time Vunipola faces the likes of Kieran Read, he will understand more about the international No 8’s all-round game.
But that experience allows New Zealand to leave their back row roaming free. How often do Read or Jerome Kaino turn up on the wide outside whereas England’s back row prefers to play the game at closer quarters? The time has come for Vunipola, Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood to build together and establish the kind of understanding that comes naturally to the Kiwis.
Give George Ford more game time at fly-half
Before this match, it was easy to raise an eyebrow at the selection of Owen Farrell at fly-half. Not through doubts over his temperament or ability, but because he went in against the world’s number-one team having played only 184 minutes of rugby this season and only one full game for Saracens. Added to which, if George Ford is to shadow Farrell, he needs significantly more game time.
England 21 New Zealand 24 player ratings
England 21 New Zealand 24 player ratings
1/32 Mike Brown - 7
Mike Brown – At his reliable best, but lacked a cutting edge with the ball in hand that we’ve come to expect. Solid would be an appropriate word
2/32 Semesa Rokodugani - 5
Non-existent with the ball given England didn’t know how to get him into the game. Useful in defence, but replaced after 62 minutes on his debut
3/32 Brad Barritt
He’s definitely not a 13, and it showed as he lacked the imagination and creativity they desperately needed
4/32 Kyle Eastmond – 6
Gave away three needless penalties in the first half but coped well thereafter. A tough ask to mark Williams, but manned up to the task
5/32 Jonny May – 8
Scored an unforgettable 50m try to light up Twickenham. His best performance yet of a very young and promising career
6/32 Owen Farrell – 6
His decision making was strong and kicking for goal as reliable as ever. Tactical kicking still needs perfecting though and it puts England under pressure
7/32 Danny Care – 6
Not at his sniping best but came to life when England were on the front-foot. Replaced by Youngs with 20 minutes to go to show he wasn’t firing on all cylinders
8/32 Joe Marler – 6
His scrummaging was good and tried to impose on the All Blacks’ pack when he carried, but Lancaster will still want more from the Harlequins captain
9/32 Dylan Hartley – 6
A constant nuisance, although the penalty for a high tackle on Cruden was slightly harsh. Lucky that he wasn’t caught by Coles’ kick. Lineout ball was of the highest calibre
10/32 David Wilson – 7
He’s performing admirably in the long-term absence of Dan Cole, and he can be happy with his performance, having scrummed well. Replaced by Brookes late on
11/32 Dave Attwood – 8
One of England’s standout players, he was strong in stealing New Zealand ball at the line-out and ran for good yards. Fatherhood appears to suit him
12/32 Courtney Lawes - 5
Lasted just 20 minutes after suffering a concussion, but his first-minute hit on Sonny Bill Williams set the tone
13/32 Tom Wood – 7
His mud-stained, blood-splattered shirt told the story, and that was only after 30 minutes. Mammoth work-rate at the breakdown, but New Zealand just squeezed him out of the game
14/32 Chris Robshaw – 6
His decision making will come into question once again as he went for scrums at the death with time against England. Looked out of gas by the end, but you can’t question his commitment
15/32 Billy Vunipola – 7
Ran hard for 53 minutes but is yet to put in a performance like that against the All Blacks two years ago. Took a heavy hit just before he was replaced
Rob Webber – Good impact in late push. 6 Matt Mullan – Picked up where Marler left off in the scrum. 6 Kieran Brookes – Big shove late on helped earn penalty try.6 George Kruis – Missed tackle led to McCaw try, but will learn. 5 Ben Morgan – Tried to carry England forward, to little avail. 6 Ben Youngs – Thrown on behind a pack going backwards. 5 George Ford – Try-saving tackle on Williams was impressive. 7 Anthony Watson – Little chance to impress on debut. 6
17/32 Israel Dagg – 4
Shaky again after his last outing against England, poor pass nearly robbed McCaw of second-half try
18/32 Ben Smith – 7
On another day he could have had two tries. As it was, a constant thorn in England’s side and hugely talented on the ground and in the air
19/32 Conrad Smith – 6
Showed his age for the first time as May burned him on the outside for opening try. Had an unusually quiet game, though is handling was as beautiful as ever
20/32 Sonny Bill Williams – 7
Enjoyed two barrelling runs, and his fist-minute one-handed offload in his own 22 summed up his desire to entertain. Nearly scored had it not been for Ford
21/32 Julian Savea – 6
Nailed Rokoduguni to welcome him to international rugby and charged over Barritt as if he wasn’t there. Got a heavy hit back from his opposite wing, and at last England managed to stop him from scoring
22/32 Aaron Cruden – 6
First-half try should have been chalked off as he grounded the ball short of the line, and his kicking was wayward in tricky conditions. Brought off after 60 minutes
23/32 Aaron Smith – 7
Wood and Vunipola kept him honest, but linked up well when All Blacks were on the attack
24/32 Wyatt Crockett – 7
Enjoyed his battle with Wilson with both enjoying success. Brought off for Ben Franks when the job was done
25/32 Dane Coles – 6
Correctly sin-binned for lashing out at Hartley only to kick Care in error. Has shown previous to let his aggression get the better of him, and must cut it out – even if he is being pulled to ground by the opposition
26/32 Owen Franks – 8
Has become a crucial player for the All Blacks and gives them a solid platform to attack from in the forwards. Second-half break set-up McCaw’s try
27/32 Sam Whitelock – 6
Nearly managed to poach himself a try, and looked bemused when it wasn’t awarded. Has bags of talent in so many areas, although he’ll be disappointed with the line-out disruption
28/32 Brodie Retallick – 7
Brought off at half-time with a shoulder injury, and will be a big miss if he misses the rest of the tour
29/32 Jerome Kaino – 7
Barrelling run in the first half produced Cruden’s try and his physicality in defence borders on the scary. Sacrificed for Mealamu when Coles was sin-binned
30/32 Richie McCaw – 9
Mr All Black was at his best as he constantly turned over English ball. Deserved his try which he did well to catch, and looked like a man who knew he’d always win come the final whistle
31/32 Kieran Read – 7
England did their best to keep him quiet but he continuously popped up lurking around the dangerous Savea
Kevin Mealamu – Brought his experience to help All Blacks cope with 14-men. 6 Ben Franks – Didn’t cope with the fresh England front-row come the end of the match. 5 Charlie Faumuina – Spotted the smallest of gaps that a prop could fit through to score. 7 Patrick Tuipulotu – Introduced at half-time and put in some hefty tackles. 7 Liam Messam – Wasn’t given long due to the sin-bin. 6 T J Perenara – Didn’t show anything to suggest he’ll usurp Smith anytime soon. 5 Beauden Barrett – Kicking was poor but the weather played a big part. 5 Ryan Crotty – All Blacks didn’t enjoy any possession when he came on. 5
But Farrell did everything Lancaster wanted. As ever, he made his tackles, he kicked his penalties to give England their half-time lead, and his tactical kicking was sound; even the most ardent Bath fan could not argue that Ford would have done better. But Ford must be given a start at some stage this autumn; no-one knows where or when injury may strike or whether Farrell will remain immune. The good thing is that Farrell will be better for this outing when he runs on against South Africa this coming weekend.
Little can beat large in midfield
Kyle Eastmond v Sonny Bill Williams? It seemed an unfair comparision so great is the difference in the physical dimensions of the two players, Eastmond at 5ft 7in and 12st 3lb, Williams 6ft 3in and 17st. But of the two, Eastmond enjoyed the more impressive game, even when England spent so much of the second half on the back foot, and he indicated genuine kicking ability at the same time.
He was slated after the third Test with NZ last summer for alleged defensive frailties but has shown the character to return and give the much-feted Williams short change. Indeed Williams, welcomed back to the All Blacks midfield against the USA last weekend, found himself in a real rugby match, hustled hither and yon and unable to get his attacking game to work.
He has the squad depth to cope with injuries
Lancaster had confidence that his chosen XV would compete, even when he saw Courtney Lawes added to his long list of second-row absentees. England started this game unable to choose Joe Launchbury, Geoff Parling and Ed Slater, and Lawes left in the first half with a big lump on his head. But George Kruis shone coming on for his first cap and there was little wrong with England’s set-piece work, so the front row is in credit too.
Indeed, this match will send a warning to all England’s rivals at next year’s World Cup about strength in depth. The greatest problem remains the best option in midfield, which will give England a better cutting edge. They simply cannot pile all their eggs into the Manu Tuilagi basket, if only because the still youthful Leicester centre has a worrying tendency to be injured at the wrong time.
He should keep faith in this team for the game against South Africa
The XV that played the world’s best deserve a crack at the global number two next weekend. Yet change there will probably have to be, assuming that Lawes is concussed and unavailable; that will give Kruis his first start and may give Graham Kitchener a place on the bench.
Kitchener’s Leicester colleague, Dan Cole, is due to make his comeback from a long-term injury in an LV= Cup game on Sunday but the tighthead prop cannot be considered by England yet. Mike Brown, at full-back, was not at his most potent but he has plenty of credit in the bank.Reuse content