New Zealand 44 England 12 : Question of attitude the latest poser for England

Does it hurt enough? Defeat, that is. Rugby in New Zealand is always cruel to the body. As the last rites were being read over the dying English season on Saturday night, appropriately by a team dressed in black, a whole clutch of players, from Mathew Tait and Toby Flood to Olly Barkley and Luke Narraway, were being stitched up, or having shoulder joints restored to their proper positions, or having hamstrings and ankles unmangled. It's a hard game, rugby union, and the rugby down here in the wintry South Island is harder than anywhere else.

But what about the deeper pain to mind and spirit that surely must be felt when England ship the best part of 50 points to opponents operating so far below their customary level that the local aficionados fear the arrival of the Springboks, the reigning world champions, for two Tri-Nations matches next month? Does it register on the collective red rose consciousness as it should? Apparently not. In the early hours of yesterday morning, a significant proportion of the tourists congregated in their hotel bar for a few cheery beers before heading off out for a few more.

It was, on the face of it, a happy scene: much handshaking and backslapping and laughter amongst a group of sportsmen who had just survived the last knockings – literal ones as well as metaphorical – of an 11-month campaign and had done their best in coming up short against superior opponents. Yet something jarred with those witnessing these events, not simply because of their acute awareness of the desperate consequences of England's previous night out in Auckland, but because they could not help wondering if the All Blacks would have behaved similarly in defeat.

Would they have thrown on their jeans and T-shirts and disappeared into the night, or gone for the sackcloth and ashes option? Most of us know the answer to that one. Rob Andrew, presumably on his one and only tour as acting team manager-cum-coach and presumably relieved at the thought, refused to accept that the attitude of some tourists to their work might legitimately be questioned, but at least one senior player felt the need to make his feelings known on the issue, both to Andrew and to the manager-in-waiting, Martin Johnson, who kept in close touch with proceedings by phone while watching the two-Test series from his home in Leicestershire.

The fact that the All Blacks have lost only 11 South Island Tests in more than a century of rugby – that no British Isles team apart from the Lions themselves have ever won in Christchurch or Dunedin – cannot be attributed solely to a gulf in skill, in talent, in tactical awareness, in physicality. The New Zealanders are bloody good at this sport, but they are not supermen. They win not because they want to – everyone wants to win – but because they feel they need to. They are the products of their history, their environment, and their fidelity to both. On the available evidence, gathered since the World Cup victory in 2003, England's players are not cut from the same cloth.

Yes, the tourists gave whatever was left of themselves in pursuit of a victory they knew to be unachievable. Tait played with wit and imagination at full-back before finishing a distant second in a fearsome clash of heads with the new All Black centre Richard Kahui, and if Johnson fails to pick the best attacking runner in English rugby for the entire autumn series in November, he will have some explaining to do.

Danny Care's performance on his first Test start was scatterbrained and inspired in equal measure; Tim Payne struck a blow for the honest toilers with a fine performance at the set-piece; Tom Palmer contributed strongly at lock; the back row was a success for the second week running, with the energetic Narraway taking another big step towards cementing his place in the problem position of No 8.

Yet five tries were conceded to a side who lost their two best forwards to injury well before the interval, who were openly experimenting with their back line, who fumbled more possession in 80 minutes than the best All Black teams would expect to mishandle in an entire calendar year.

Three of these tries were an embarrassment to Mike Ford, the England defence strategist – he must have felt like hanging himself when Sione Lauaki ambled over from the back of a scrum just past the hour mark – and none of them were unpreventable.

Ford must be feeling just a little uncomfortable as Johnson prepares to move into Twickenham in a week's time, but when he chewed the fat before leaving for the airport yesterday, he was right about one thing: Dan Carter, the New Zealand outside-half, is one hell of an act. "He stresses you out," he admitted.

England could hardly complain of injustice on the scoreboard given the amount of waste they accumulated. Tom Varndell allowed an obvious try-scoring opportunity to slip away when he allowed himself to be tackled into touch by Leon MacDonald; Tait dropped the ball over the line when it might have been easier to score; Barkley went wide with a penalty from a position smack in front of the sticks.

All things considered, then, there was precious little to gladden the heart. Care's tap-and-scamper routine for the first of England's tries? Excellent. Tait's perfectly-timed pass to Varndell for the second of them? Magical. These isolated peaks aside, Johnson must fall back on some aggressive work in the loose by a young back-row trio and Steve Borthwick's intelligent management of the line-out as he searches for reasons to be cheerful. To use an old West Country phrase: it would not look a lot in a bucket.

New Zealand: L MacDonald (Canterbury); S Sivivatu (Waikato), R Kahui (Waikato), M Nonu (Wellington), R Wulf (North Harbour); D Carter (Canterbury), A Ellis (Canterbury); N Tialata (Wellington), A Hore (Taranaki), G Somerville (Canterbury), B Thorn (Tasman), A Williams (Tasman), A Thomson (Otago), R McCaw (Canterbury, capt), R So'oialo (Wellington). Replacements: A Boric (North Harbour) for Williams, 15; S Lauaki (Waikato) for McCaw, 31; K Mealamu (Auckland) for Hore, 39-40 and 50; A Woodcock (North Harbour) for Tialata, h-t; J Cowan (Southland) for Ellis, 68; M Muliaina (Waikato) for Kahui, 77-79; S Donald (Waikato) for Carter, 79.

England: M Tait (Newcastle); T Ojo (London Irish), M Tindall (Gloucester), J Noon (Newcastle), T Varndell (Leicester); T Flood (Newcastle), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), L Mears (Bath), M Stevens (Bath), T Palmer (Wasps), S Borthwick (Bath, capt), J Haskell (Wasps), T Rees (Wasps), L Narraway (Gloucester). Replacements: O Barkley (Bath) for Flood, 33; J Worsley (Wasps) for Rees, 52; T Croft (Leicester) for Narraway, 56; B Kay (Leicester) for Palmer, 69; J Hobson (Bristol) for Stevens, 73; P Richards (London Irish) for Tait, 77; D Paice (London Irish) for Mears, 80.

Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa)

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
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

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album