New Zealand 28 England 27 analysis: Red Rose has still to flower fully

Lancaster’s men have shown a pleasing improvement on this tour but must learn to avoid mistakes at crucial moments

Unless something goes horribly wrong in Christchurch and Hamilton this week, England’s players will head for home, the beach or the obligatory stag weekend in Las Vegas with their reputation in New Zealand pleasurably enhanced. At the same time, with just a dozen Test matches remaining before the World Cup in the autumn of 2015, the tourists will be aghast if all they have proved is that the strength in depth of their squad now guarantees they can lose with dignity.

To be beaten by the All Blacks in the two Tests to date by a combined total of six points would have been the stuff of dreams on many past tours. The contrast with the troubled excursions to New Zealand in 2008 and 2011 in particular has been a trip planned with a welter of research by the head coach, Stuart Lancaster, that has shown England to be business-like and competitive rather than boozy and managerially incompetent.

Whatever unfolds in Tuesday’s dirt-tracker assignment against the Crusaders and Saturday’s third and concluding Test back on the North Island, it appears we no longer have to suffer the disgrace of the country with the world’s greatest rugby wealth and playing numbers serving as the southern hemisphere’s whipping boys.

Of course England and their earnest captain, Chris Robshaw, yearned to be winners on this tour, so they will end it frustrated. No one else, let it be noted, is currently beating New Zealand either. The reigning world champions are now two wins short of a world record for successive Test wins – if England fail to derail them in Hamilton, it will be down to Australia in Sydney in August – and their record run of home victories has moved on to 32.

 

England’s outside-backs scored three tries in Dunedin yesterday, including the full-back Mike Brown’s fifth in seven Tests this calendar year, yet their only lasting satisfaction was in forcing the All Blacks to pull some of their fluffiest rabbits out of the hat in a high-class 25 minutes spanning the half-time interval.

A week ago we marvelled at an England team losing 20-15 in Auckland in spite of missing a substantial contingent of Saracens and Northampton players.

Yesterday the savagely skilful way the All Blacks turned a 10-6 deficit into a 28-13 lead prompted Lancaster to remind us of the players he was unable to take on this tour, including no fewer than five Lions Test forwards in Alex Corbisiero, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Tom Youngs and Tom Croft. These men, plus Christian Wade on the wing and George Ford at fly-half, should be competing for spots in November’s rematch with New Zealand at Twickenham that kicks off a series also comprising South Africa, Samoa and Australia.

Owen Farrell was reliable with his kicking as he landed four from five Owen Farrell was reliable with his kicking as he landed four from five  

It could be argued that England will be stronger for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, rather than the one closer at hand. Nine of New Zealand’s players yesterday were aged 30 or over – the return of the absent superstars Dan Carter and Kieran Read would add to that number by the time of the 2015 final – to England’s one in Geoff Parling.

But home advantage in next year’s tournament will be surely be worth a few points. Enough, perhaps, to get past Wales and Australia in the pool, after which all England’s potential knock-out matches will be at Twickenham, with New Zealand set to meet them in either the semi-finals or the final.

In any case, as Toulon have showed by winning the club game’s domestic-European double, quality is the trump card, whether you are 18 or 38. England in Dunedin were one big hand-off by Manu Tuilagi away from vindication of Lancaster’s dubious selection of the Leicester centre on the right wing. If Tuilagi had finished his “Run, Forrest, run” moment instead of being hauled down by Ben Smith, England might have led 17-3.

Tuilagi told us in these pages a few weeks ago that he is the fastest man in the England squad over 10 metres; 70 metres was a different challenge, one which he might also have solved by linking with Brown inside him. Tuilagi’s normal practice is to run straight and burst tackles. On the wide outside he was reduced to crabbing and stuttering. He surely has to reappear in the No 13 jersey, now or in the autumn and the 2015 Six Nations’ Championship, during which England are away to Wales and Ireland.

A nagging worry about England and their World Cup bid is that in every major tournament and series under Lancaster they have lost at least one big match; this season it has been against New Zealand home and away, and France in Paris.

On the upside, next summer they will enjoy the rest and conditioning that Joe Launchbury, among a few on this tour, has looked as if he could do with, and Tuilagi and the Bath hooker Rob Webber have re-emerged with verve after spending much of the domestic season injured.

Furthermore, the scrum and line-out are secure platforms – but the inability to complete good try-scoring chances is quite the opposite. When Billy Twelvetrees threw the risky inside pass that led to Smith’s crucial try early in yesterday’s second half, Lancaster’s much-vaunted second playmaker ignored a perfect overlap developing outside him.

England have put an end to their white jersey being the flag of tame defeatists. Only by ironing out such mistakes will they turn it into the banner of world-beaters.

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone