Tim Glover: Real reason for defeat - Jonny

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The Independent Online

Clive Woodward maintained that Simon Shaw's offence didn't warrant a yellow card, let alone a red, and that England could have won had the lock forward not been sent off in the 10th minute. Sir Clive is only half-right.

Clive Woodward maintained that Simon Shaw's offence didn't warrant a yellow card, let alone a red, and that England could have won had the lock forward not been sent off in the 10th minute. Sir Clive is only half-right.

Had Nigel Williams ignored Stuart Dickinson's misguided advice it would have made for a more interesting Test match, but England's cause was beyond salvation.

It wasn't the dismissal of Shaw that did for them but the loss of Jonny Wilkinson. They are nowhere near the same force without him. There are other notable absentees from the side who won the World Cup, such as Martin Johnson and Jason Robinson, but Wilkinson was not only their match-winner but their arch defender and creator-in-chief. He is irreplaceable. Charlie Hodgson is a talented footballer, and so too is Carlos Spencer, but neither are in Wilkinson's class.

In the First Test in Dunedin England managed one measly penalty; in the Second in Auckland, Hodgson kicked four penalties - but they never looked like scoring a try. "It is significant,'' pointed out Graham Henry, New Zealand's new coach, "that in two matches we've scored eight tries to nil.''

Not surprisingly, this mattered more to Henry, who can barely wait for the visit next year of Woodward's Lions, than the sending-off of Shaw for an incident which the former Auckland headmaster said he had not seen. He was in a very small minority.

Prior to the 36-3 defeat in Dunedin, the last time England had failed to register a try was against France on a rainy evening in Sydney in the semi-finals of the World Cup. It didn't matter, of course, because that night Wilkinson kicked penalty after penalty, drop goal after drop goal.

Shaw's sending-off at Eden Park was a fig leaf that failed to disguise England's shortcomings in the back line. In his prime, Ben Cohen was as prolific a try-scorer as Joe Rokocoko, but yesterday the Northampton wing looked spent. In a quid pro quo for New Zealand's autumn visit to Twickenham, England are paying a heavy price.

Tiredness is only one reason for England's lack of creativity. They have missed the subtlety introduced by the former backs coach Brian Ashton, and there is a huge amount of work to be done by his successor, Joe Lydon.

The All Blacks, strangely lacking the self-belief so evident in the First Test, scored five tries yesterday, three of them by Rokocoko, but even so they did not look like world-beaters. Justin Marshall's distribution was erratic, and in the second half Spencer was under instructions to kick for field position. Despite the try count, Wayne Smith, the former Northampton coach now employed to look after Henry's backs, also has considerable room for improvement.

Woodward was entitled to criticise the sending-off, but he cannot escape blame for one of his less impressive weeks. His first mistake was to claim New Zealand's defence was fragile, and his second was to replace his best players early in the second half.

Joe Worsley, who was inex-plicably demoted to the bench for the First Test when he was in the form of his life, was making his presence felt yesterday when he was called off. To make matters worse, Andy Gomarsall and Mark Regan, who were putting in outstanding performances, were also replaced. Perhaps it was to save them for further punishment before the international against Australia in Brisbane next Saturday. If so, it makes about as much sense as having yet another Test match at the fag end of a marathon season.

The memory of England's marvellous achievement in winning the World Cup last November is being tarnished by a punishing schedule. Defeats to Ireland and France in the Six Nations had already undermined the Red Rose authority and underlined the value of Wilkinson. Without him, England would never have got their hands on the Webb Ellis trophy.

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