England coach Stuart Lancaster said his side were hurting after recent defeats to world champions New Zealand and South Africa.
England coach Stuart Lancaster said his side were hurting after defeats to world champions New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham in the past fortnight meant they’d lost five times in a row.
England have only 10 games between now and when they stage next year’s World Cup, leaving Lancaster with little time to make England serious contenders to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.
Saturday’s loss to South Africa, which meant the Red Rose brigade had suffered their worst run of results in eight years, was especially dispiriting for England given their forwards generated so much possession, although they sometimes struggled at the breakdown.
But England’s longstanding problem of how to best use the ball presented to them was again in evidence, with halfbacks Danny Care and Owen Farrell struggling to impose themselves on a match where Lancaster’s men were not helped by aimless kicking and poor passing in a 31-28 defeat that, in truth, was not as close as the scoreline indicated.
But Lancaster said his side better accept the scrutiny they were under was only going to intensify between now and the World Cup.
“We’re going to have pressure on us when the World Cup comes around, irrespective of the results leading up to it,” said Lancaster.
“That’s what comes with the expectation of being the home nation, so we better get used to it. And so had I.
“It hurts when you lose as England – and it should do.
“It hurts me personally because I’m responsible for the team and it hurts the players because the players care about the team.
“My sense is that we’re disappointed with ourselves, but we have to continue to believe in what we’re doing.”
Four of England’s recent defeats have come against the All Blacks, with South Africa second only to New Zealand in the world rankings.
A defiant Lancaster took some comfort from the fact England had not been “smashed” in any of those five matches.
“It’s easy to say you’ve not won any of your last five games, but the opposition has been pretty good and three of the defeats were in New Zealand,” Lancaster said.
“We’ve not been smashed by any of them. I’ve seen South Africa get beaten by 30 points in the summer, I’ve seen South Africa beat Australia by 30 points, I’ve seen New Zealand put 50 points on Australia.
“Now we’ve come up short and we’re not happy about that, but we’ve not been smashed.”
Lancaster is set to make changes for this Saturday’s match against Samoa, although the fact the tough-tackling Pacific Islanders are not of the same standard as New Zealand or South Africa is likely to make comparisons with England’s first two matches difficult ahead of their November finale against World Cup pool rivals Australia.
England have rarely enjoyed a settled and reliable midfield since the retirement of 2003 World Cup-winner Will Greenwood and their difficulties in that area intensified when centre Kyle Eastmond was barred from training this week with concussion.
Billy Twelvetrees, who could fill a vacancy caused by Eastmond’s absence, has an ankle problem and Lancaster could yet decide to field Farrell at inside centre against Samoa, with back-up No 10 George Ford given the chance to show what he can do as a starting fly-half.
“It does affect your selection and it will complicate it,” said Lancaster.
“Farrell is an option at 12, as well as Twelvetrees. We’ll see how training goes on Tuesday.”