'We don't seem to believe we can beat them'

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The Independent Online
I've rarely known a feeling of disappointment like the one at full-time at Wembley on Saturday.

The simple fact is that we just didn't play well enough. I don't think our effort could be faulted, but we never channelled it in the right direction.

When the hooter went I felt as though I'd let a lot of people down. There were people involved - players and coaching and management staff - for whom I've got a lot of respect and I wanted us to win for them; for Andy Platt, for instance, in what will have been his last chance.

There was a general feeling that it was our big opportunity, so to have lost it is particularly painful. I took it hard at the end and I make no apology for that. If you don't take it hard you don't learn from what you have done wrong.

Not that there is any point in dwelling on your errors during the game. Everyone saw my worst moment, when I tried to trap the ball from the kick- off and Australia eventually scored a try from our lost possession.

What happened was that I thought the ball was going to reach me on the full, but it got caught in the wind and dropped short. When I tried to trap it, my soccer skills just weren't up to Denis Betts' standards.

I almost had a chance to drop on it, even when it ran loose, but the ball had a mind of its own and bounced away from me.

Seeing Australia score a try five tackles later was a real low point for me, but if you allow yourself to brood on it you are already on your way to a second mistake.

What you have to do is get a touch or make a tackle as quickly as possible. You can't let yourself drift out of the game and I didn't feel that I did.

As a team, we were not looking for excuses afterwards, but I do feel that we would have had a better chance if the game had been allowed to flow more quickly at the play-the-balls.

Bob Fulton, Australia's coach, set out his stall on that in advance and I thought they got away with slowing play down, which helped their style of defence.

Our problem in beating Australia goes deeper than that, though. Back to 1992, it has always seemed to me that when we play the vital games against them we tighten up too much.

This isn't a criticism of individuals, because it has applied with different coaches and different players, but deep down we don't seem to believe that we can beat them.

We play too conservatively and try to sneak a win. It hasn't worked for us when it has mattered in the past and it didn't work on Saturday.

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