'The chances we gave them were criminal'

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The Independent Online

Brian Ashton last night admitted that England were a beaten side as early as half-time by the rampaging South Africans and stressed the need for the world champions to pick themselves up quickly if they are to launch any sort of defence of their title.

Speaking after the humiliation in Paris, the coach refused to concede that England had moved on in any shape or form since their abject performance against the United States last Saturday.

"We probably stood still from that display to be honest," he said. "Of course, this was a much bigger challenge, but we had some opportunities to nail down some field position and we just didn't do it. By half-time the game was effectively over.

"That was one of the main talking points in the run-up; to keep these guys out our 22 and we couldn't manage that. I thought their kicking game was outstanding. At half-time all we had left was to salvage some pride and some of the individuals showed up much better in the second-half. I'm not sure what was lacking, because I don't want to use the word passion, as that's the wrong word.

"All I can say is that we have a lot of things to think about as Samoa is now a must-win game. We need to look at the game again to see what the starting side is going to be."

Martin Corry, the captain in Phil Vickery's absence, was just as honest labelling England's generosity in allowing South Africa uncluttered passages to the try-line as "criminal".

"Obviously, we were outplayed, especially early on," said the blindside flanker, who together with the rest of his forwards received a torrid evening at the hands of the Springbok pack. "In that opening spell we gave them very good field position and from then on we were just playing catch up.

"Early on we just didn't give ourselves an opportunity to get into the game. It was criminal the opportunities we gave them. It was 25 to 30 minutes before we got our hands on the ball.

"We knew there was always going to be a green wall in front of us and we knew we had to go around it or through it. We didn't do either."