Toby Flood: South Africa mauled us apparently, but it's all a blank after Bismarck sank me
Friday 03 December 2010
It was only when I was coming away from Twickenham last Saturday that I became fully aware of what exactly happened in the final game of our Investec Internationals. Obviously, I soon became aware that England were beaten 21-11 by South Africa but the details of the game escaped me at the time.
I took a bang in a collision with Bismarck Du Plessis, the Springbok hooker, and that was kind of the end of the afternoon for me. I felt all right at the time. I just couldn't remember everything that happened in the game
It's massively frustrating that we finished the autumn series with a defeat. We really wanted to judge ourselves on the last game. We did not get out of the blocks well enough in our opener against New Zealand but I think had we ended up winning three from four we would have been in a relatively happy place. As it was, we lost to South Africa.
They were physical at the breakdown, stronger than us in certain areas, made it very difficult for us to get any rhythm going, and fully deserved their win. All credit to them for that, but defeat has certainly left a bitter taste in our mouths.
Over the autumn as a whole, we've only shown in flashes where we all want to be as a squad. We have to be consistent. There have been positives – and we'll use them in the RBS Six Nations' Championship in the new year, for sure. But it's disappointing to end the autumn, and 2010, on a defeat like that. A lot of us in the squad felt we could perform a lot better.
Next year is a World Cup year, of course, and we go into it standing fourth in the International Rugby Board world rankings – behind New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. I'd say that's a fair reflection of where we are, although I don't think many teams see where they are in the rankings as being of massive relevance. If you look at the teams from the Six Nations and the Tri-Nations, I think most of them believe that on their day they can beat any other country from within that top nine.
I think it's far to say that the All Blacks are the favourites for the World Cup at this stage. You only need to look at the quality of player they've got, and at what they've been achieving over the past couple of years, to see them as clear favourites as things stand. Having said that, obviously a lot can happen before the World Cup starts in New Zealand in September.
We've got the Six Nations and New Zealand have got the Tri-Nations, so it'll be interesting to see what develops. The test for all teams will be the last tournament for them before they go to the World Cup. The big thing for New Zealand is to make sure they follow through with their performances. The big thing for us is to get to the level they're performing at, so we can lay down a real challenge for the World Cup.
The Six Nations starts on 4 February and it doesn't get any bigger for England than opening with Wales away in Cardiff, and on a Friday night. You'll have a partisan crowd there and a Welsh team going all out to beat the English. It's a real blinder of a game to kick off the Six Nations' Championship.
Next month is Tigers' acid test
Before the Six Nations comes around, there's some vital club business to attend to – both in the Aviva Premiership and in the Heineken Cup. The rest of the guys at Leicester Tigers have done really well at keeping us in a good league position while 10 of us have been away on autumn international duty. We're lying third in the Premiership and tomorrow we're away to the team in second, London Irish.
It's a huge game for us – the first of four leading in to the new year. If we can get to the turn of the year having beaten Irish, beaten Perpignan home and away in the Heineken Cup, and beaten Sale in the league two days after Christmas, then we'll have put ourselves in an excellent position. It's a real acid test of our season.
We haven't had the best of runs away from home in the Premiership. We haven't won away in a league fixture since we went up to Newcastle in April.
We haven't picked up top gear on the road. We played well away at Wasps. We were way ahead at half-time but then we let it slip. The endeavour has always been there. We just haven't been clinical enough.
It's all about Leicester now for the next two months. It doesn't matter whether you've been away with England or you've been playing for Italy, like Martin Castrogiovanni; when you come back to the Tigers you're straight into the Leicester mould again and you're expected to pick up where you left off.
There's certainly no consoling arm around the shoulder from Richard Cockerill if you're returning on the back of a disappointing international defeat. That's not Cockers' way. His job, as Leicester's director of rugby, is to get results for the club. That's the big focus for all of us now – starting against London Irish in Reading tomorrow.
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