Lancaster – We are not far away


Published: Saturday 8th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Stuart Lancaster insists England are “not far away” from New Zealand despite his side’s 24-21 defeat to the world champions at Twickenham on Saturday.

England took a deserved 14-11 lead into half-time after Jonny May had scored a superb early try but the All Blacks dominated the second half despite losing hooker Dane Coles to the sin-bin.

Tries from Kieran Read and Charles Faumuina put the visitors out of sight before a penalty try for England at the death gave a kinder look to the scoreline.

New Zealand’s fourth win over England this year suggests Lancaster’s team have some way to go if they are to triumph at next year’s World Cup but the head coach remains optimistic.

“We’ve played them four times now this year and we haven’t got the right result but we don’t feel we’re far away,” Lancaster said.

“We’ve got some good players watching the game today so we’ll keep our confidence and maintain the direction in which we’re going.”

“In the first half, we were pretty close if not level.

“The All Blacks have played eight games and two-and-a-half months together since we last played them and I thought we put them under pressure.

“We created opportunities in attack but obviously there’s a period of play they constructed that shows why they have the experience to close out a game like that.

“That’s what we’ve got to get.”

England could have been further ahead in the first half but squandered a handful of excellent opportunities.

The best chance fell to full-back Mike Brown, who look destined to score in the corner but dropped Kyle Eastmond’s pass with the line at his mercy.

Lancaster, however, was keen to stress the positives.

“We’ve had one-and-a-half week’s preparation and we’ve got young lads who are 20 and 21 years old making their debuts at Twickenham against the All Blacks – that’s a positive,” he said.

“The performance of the pack was excellent – it couldn’t have been far off 100 per cent lineout. We put a lot of pressure on their ball and there was some good rugby on show in the first half.

“We missed one opportunity in the first half which could have made a difference.

“We need to work on the accuracy of our kicking, the pressure we put on ourselves playing in and around our halfway line.

“When the weather turned New Zealand maximised that opportunity well and when the hooker was in the sin bin they managed that well as well.

“We couldn’t get the territory to get close to them in the second half.”

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen agreed his players improved their performance after half-time but downplayed the significance of the All Blacks’ greater experience.

“If your team has more caps than the other and you lose they tell you they are too old and should retire – it’s just an excuse,” Hansen said.

“The big thing that changed in the second half was that we got a wee bit urgent.

“In that first half England were probably half a click in front of us the whole time, showed a bit more desperation and urgency to get to places.

“We talked about it in the changing room at half-time – we needed to get urgent before we needed to get desperate in the last five minutes.

“The reality is we won the game in that 10 minutes because we were able to play with 14 men after Coles reacted to being pulled off his feet.

“Yes he was ill-disciplined but what pleased us most was that our guys showed their fortitude, we won that period and I think that hurt England.”

Much of the talk in the build-up to the contest was about gaining a psychological advantage ahead of the World Cup but Hansen was adamant the game has no bearing on the tournament next year.

“People talking about the psychological advantage of winning today – there’s a lot of us think that’s a load of baloney,” Hansen said.

“There’s no psychological advantage if we don’t make it to the next stage to play England – you are assuming a lot.

“There are some great rugby teams that are going to go to the World Cup. The World Cup’s not about one team, it’s about five or six.

“The All Blacks have shown many times you can be top dog and not get there.

“So if you haven’t got your ducks in a row when the time comes, you don’t make it. Today is about winning today.

“There’s no psychological advantage because World Cups have shown time and time again that prior history goes out the door.”

The All Blacks head coach was also critical of replays being shown on the big screen at Twickenham, which he felt were trying to influence the referee.

“My biggest concern is not TMOs or referees – my biggest concern is that TV producers are starting to have an influence on the game,” Hansen said.

“We don’t need a TV producer to replay something 100 times – that’s not in the character or the spirit of our game.

“Referees will make mistakes, just like players will make mistakes and some of those mistakes will cost you the game but you’ve got to live with that because some day you’ll get the rub of the green and the mistake he made will let you win it.

“But TV producers, they are starting to annoy me somewhat.”

Published: Saturday 8th November 2014 by The News Editor

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