Immediately, they began to think of English backs who could be quicker and more incisive, but I believe that is barking up the wrong tree at this stage. Of course, finding players possessing pace and the ability to ghost past opponents is vital but first you have to be better versed in the basics of attacking play and that is where England fall short.
The ability to generate quick ball was a big difference between the All Blacks and England. Indeed, it is the biggest difference between the All Blacks and any team in the world. The aggressive way they get to the contact area and the speed with which they recycle the ball gives them a tremendous advantage. And if they don't get the ball, they will slow down the opposition's use of it.
When England get possession, the crash-bang mentality takes over. You see it every week at club level. They seem to lack the basic skills needed to run straight, hold the defender up and time the pass.
It is when the ball gets into the hands of Dan Carter, the All Black fly-half, that you see what an attacking style should be. Two dummy runners will start running against the grain and capture the attention of the defenders. As they get level, Carter will pass the ball behind them to the outside centre, who is coming from deep. He usually finds space and the rest play off him. It works time after time and I have heard people complain that using dummy runners like this is illegal.
We all know how good New Zealand are at playing to the boundaries of the rules but I guarantee that 90 per cent of the time they are not technically infringing. What they do is hold up the drift defenders long enough for the outside centre to do damage to the middle of the line.
If Joe Lydon, the England backs coach, has been taking his backs through the video of last weekend's game, they will have seen the difference when England had the ball. Not only were England's backs not getting the ball quickly enough, they were also not holding their line when they did get it. They passed the ball down the back-line while crabbing across the field and making it easy for the drift defence.
When they had the prospect of an overlap, they were not straightening up and drawing in any defenders, so the drift defence got to the wingers at the same time as the ball.
No one attempted to change the angle of running and their only variation was to throw a long miss-out pass that had no chance of causing trouble to the defenders.
You have got to change the angles of running and be aware of what is in front of you. Carter had two chances to get through the English line, and he took them both. He knew that the inside defender was too slow so he threw the dummy on both occasions and was away. He has this great awareness. It doesn't matter how quick and clever you are, it's the sizing-up of the situation that counts.
When England were at their best leading up to the 2003 World Cup, they did the basics extremely well, ran good angles and executed overlaps.
To return to that level, they need to analyse why they are crabbing, have players prepared to take the initiative and be conscious that sometimes the dummy runner is as important as the ball carrier.
As for the players they should use, I am not one of those who believe that when Jonny Wilkinson returns he and Charlie Hodgson should play next to each other. A few years ago, Wilkinson might have worked at inside centre, but not any more. You have to choose between them as the outside-half on form and have the other on the bench so that you can change things if necessary.
Yesterday's match against Samoa might have given a few clues as to the backs of the future but the real solution will lie in developing a higher level of basic attacking skills, like New Zealand have done.Reuse content