Stuart Lancaster barely knows what it is to lose heavily – until yesterday, his England team had suffered only one double-digit defeat, in Cardiff on Grand Slam day 15 months ago – so the head coach was understandably flabbergasted by some of the things he saw at the Waikato Stadium.
“We lacked the intensity we’d shown in the first two Tests and there were some pretty sharp words at half-time,” he admitted.
But his second in command, Andy Farrell, really let fly. “We started poorly in defence and it got worse,” said the backs coach, whose determination to make the England defence all but insurmountable has defined his coaching. “We made mistakes in putting ourselves behind the ‘eight ball’ straight away and all of a sudden we were being reactive instead of going out and getting them, which is what our defence has always been about.
“We weren’t anywhere near 80 per cent and it showed: to play an international game against the All Blacks you need to be proactive, because the minute you’re behind the gain line, things start to snowball. The first half wasn’t good enough, but at least we have something in black and white now – something that shows what intensity looks like and what it definitely doesn’t look like.”
There will be repercussions for some: possibly Chris Ashton, only just recalled to start on the wing, and certainly Kyle Eastmond, whose encouraging attacking performance in the first Test in Auckland was a million miles from his powder-puff defence here. The decision to drop Billy Twelvetrees backfired badly, as Farrell tacitly admitted.
“Kyle is disappointed,” he reported. “You don’t become a bad player overnight and he has all the skills, but he was off the pace. He’s smart, though. He won’t make that mistake again.”
As for New Zealand, a record 18th successive Test victory awaits when they face Australia in Sydney in August. They are likely to find the Wallaby midfield more resilient but they have every chance of beating the current record, set jointly by Brian Lochore’s All Blacks of the mid-1960s and Gary Teichmann’s Springboks of the late 1990s.