The Twickenham File: Chris Robshaw's men lack killer bite when they are starved of scrums

 

Where do you consider England's traditional strengths lie? That's right, the set-piece, the less than glamorous areas on which success is founded. Where did it go wrong for England yesterday when the outcome hung in the balance, midway through the second half? That's right, the set-piece or, with regard to the scrum, the lack of it.

In the first half England imposed themselves at scrum-time in just the way they had hoped, albeit without control of the ball at every stage. In the second half they only had two put-ins, so the scrum as an attacking platform was taken away from them.

This is not merely coincidence. No side in the world are better than New Zealand for game appreciation, and the lesson to be taken from this encounter is that England lack such understanding. The All Blacks preferred here to play their set-piece game out of touch. That area had been well contested throughout but, around the hour mark, it slipped out of England's reach: sadly for Tom Youngs, the fault line opened on his watch after he replaced Dylan Hartley at hooker.

It should not have been so, since his Leicester colleague Geoff Parling was already on the pitch as replacement lock and line-out guru, but two line-outs were lost and a third followed.

You could argue that the concession of a fourth led to the crucial third New Zealand try. England may have won a line-out on their own 22 but Ben Morgan knocked on in the ensuing maul, the All Blacks were held in the right-hand corner but came back left for Julian Savea to score his second try.

Richie McCaw, their captain, spoke about the ability to take chances and this, in the end, was the difference between the sides.Once McCaw's team had nosed ahead once again, their scrum was rock-steady. If anyone had extra reason to be pleased in their camp it was Mike Cron, their scrum coach, who saw his tight forwards keep their noses to the grindstone even in the absence after half-time (with a strained hamstring) of Tony Woodcock, one of his country's four centurions.

Carter takes the lead in numbers game

Neither side were led out by their captain: Dan Carter did the honours for New Zealand on his 100th appearance, Dylan Hartley for England on his 50th. "It's just a number," Hartley had growled earlier in the week, referring to Carter's more significant achievement in reaching his ton but the Saints man will start 2014 as England's first-choice hooker, ahead of Tom Youngs.

Read the wild rover is world's best No 8

Every England player upped his game faced with the need to compete with the best country in world rugby. But when push came to shove they still lacked the absolute class purveyed by players such as New Zealand's Kieran Read, the best No 8 around bar none. Read spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin around half-time yet was still close to being man of the match. Try-scorer, creator of chances, he is the rover that no opponent has found a way of quashing; he will win you line-out ball when required, but his best role is in the loose such is his ability to keep the ball in play. If Billy Vunipola, who created problems of his own with ball in hand and received due praise from England's manager, Stuart Lancaster, afterwards, and Ben Morgan spend their Christmas studying tapes of Read's display in this match, they will be the better for it.

Time to put the boot in

Much of New Zealand's half-time talk revolved around two areas: field position and retaining possession. As the game slipped away in the final 10 minutes, where were England to be seen? Playing with ball in hand between their own 22 and 10-metre lines, from where they were never going to recover the initiative, rather than putting a big boot to the ball and playing as deep as possible into New Zealand territory.

Wood a chip off the Kiwi block

They learn young in New Zealand. Tom Wood, the England flanker, spent a formative year at Oamaru in New Zealand, the birthplace of Richie McCaw, and Wood understands the sly moves which remain part and parcel of the game. Watch him sweep no less an individual than Kieran Read with him into a ruck during the first half, thereby taking the All Black No 8 out of play.

Red Rose can bloom further

"If England can run the ABs that close now, they could be a hell of a side in two years' time," one seasoned New Zealand observer said. That is precisely where England look to be: a starting XV with just over 300 caps was playing the top-ranked team with over 800 caps to their name and experience told, but remember, England were bereft through injury of first choices at wing, in the centre, front row and back row.

30

The most points England have conceded at home in five years, since losing 32-8 to New Zealand in November 2008.

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
News
Ethical matters: pupils during a philosophy lesson
educationTaunton School's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal