England full-back Alex Goode on Six Nations defeat to Wales: 'It's tough, it's keeping me awake at night...'
Full-back Alex Goode reveals the hurt in the England camp after Cardiff, but tells Robin Scott-Elliot that the side are not 'bottlers' and will return stronger
Monday 18 March 2013
Alex Goode arrived home on Sunday afternoon with a list of chores to be done before a return to work this morning. He has been away from home for the best part of two months, the cupboards were bare and there was washing to be done. Anything that might help him move on.
It is three nights now since England's Grand Slam was gleefully wrecked by Wales, and Goode has puzzled over what went wrong on each of them.
"I think every player, when you have a loss like that in a big game, will be the same because it is tough," says Goode. "I lie awake at night and think I should have done this or that. First and foremost you don't want to ever lose but a big game like that, and the way we lost, is tough to take. We will be back in the club tomorrow to put the Wales game to bed and look forward to Quins."
On Saturday, it is Goode's Saracens, Premiership leaders, against Harlequins, who lie second, a match that will feature a host of the England side laid to waste in Cardiff. Now they will be looking to take lumps out of each other; a first step towards a Welsh exorcism.
"It's strange – you spend eight weeks with people like Danny Care, Joe Marler and Chris Robshaw and then this week we'll be thinking how we can smash them on Saturday," says Goode. The 24-year-old sits in a room beneath the stands of Allianz Park, Saracens' new home in north London, a project with ambition that for the time being remains largely a building site. It is a work in progress. Much like Stuart Lancaster's England.
Goode and Co were dispatched back to the shires by Lancaster on Sunday accompanied by a positive message. "For a start, he said to us 'You don't become a bad team overnight'," says Goode. "He tried to be positive. He said we know this is a very disappointing defeat but we have done well in this campaign and what we have learnt as a group of players is fantastic. We need to make sure we take that forward.
"For a player [Lancaster] is brilliant because he is honest. He tells you how it is, whether it is what you want to hear or not. He is good looking forward and showing us where we need to be, seeing the overall picture. And he is still the same guy who wants to make sure we give back to the grass-roots and appreciate what got us here.
"What he has also done is try and get us back in touch with the supporters. This loss will hurt – we didn't want to let those people down. We went into the game in good spirits and a good place. First and foremost you feel you let your team-mates down. I guess it is tough – in a way we let people down. We got in a good position and we didn't finish it off."
Unprompted Goode raises the notion that England might have "bottled it" – as if it has been nagging him – considers it briefly and then rejects it. He talks of relishing the atmosphere in Cardiff, the experience of playing in one of rugby's great temples. "This whole thing of people saying we bottled it I don't think that at all," he says. "Bottling it would have been capitulating from minute one to minute 80."
Afterwards, with Welsh cheers ringing around the Millennium, the England players gathered in a white huddle, as if keen to both fend off the misery and absorb it. "We spoke about having to learn from this," says Goode. "There is no point losing if you don't learn from it and get better and that is what this group has done when we've had losses against South Africa in the summer and in the autumn internationals."
There is obvious succour to be found via the experience of the 2003 World Cup-winning squad, one that squandered three such opportunities among the foundations of their year of years. "What they did well was not panic," says Goode. "They kept the core group together. They all say it put them in a better place come 2003. I'm not advocating losing but if we have to take a loss and as long as we learn from it and it helps us on our journey to the 2015 World Cup then we are in the right place.
"As players you want to win every game, you do not want to lose or show any weaknesses. You want to be brutally clinical. But life's not perfect. We have to learn why we lost, what we can do better."
So why did they lose? "At the breakdown they hit us hard, put numbers in, slowed our ball up and we could not get any continuity. They have some big, strong boys and we wanted to play at a tempo and speed where we could move them around and tire them out. That way it would be tough for them to defend. But we never really got that.
"Throughout the tournament our discipline has been good. We haven't allowed teams territory and made it hard for them to pick up points. [Against Wales] we got on the wrong side of the penalty count."
This was Goode's first Six Nations, an experience he relished until the final half of the final match. It meant eight weeks away from home. "Playing on the PlayStation 3 was the perfect downtime between training," he says. "A lot of the boys would all come to my room and play Fifa but I'm more of a God of War fan.
"My uncle sent me a good message [after the Wales game] – it's not how you are judged after the loss but how you respond," says Goode. "That's why a lot of the boys will be keen to get out there on Saturday.
"We are close. This is a good bunch of boys who want to work hard, want to improve, want to be the best they can be. As players we need to make sure we stick together and when times do get tough that's when we've been good. In the autumn, when we had two losses, we stuck together as a group, we were close knit and that's got to be the same now."
Alex Goode plays God of War Ascension on the new red PlayStation 3. Are you #RedOrBlue? Head to Facebook.com/PlayStationAccess and enter our competition to win a Red or Blue PlayStation 3
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