They know that the gap is closing
Stuart Lancaster believes that his side have shown that they are closing the gap on the All Blacks despite losing both Tests on their tour.
After Marland Yarde’s third Test try helped England to a 10-0 lead after just five minutes, the All Blacks out-scored the visitors 25 points to three in the third quarter of the game to clinch the series with one Test remaining.
Mike Brown and Chris Ashton scored deserved consolation tries to reward a commited and ambitious display after the bench helped wrest back territory and possession late in the game, but the volume and variety of runners hurtling at England’s defence was the match’s defining feature.
Lancaster commented: “I don’t think there is any other way than going through the experience.
“You can talk about it in hypothetical situations, you can show them clips of training or the experience of other teams but until you are there in the moment and living it, breathing it and working as a team to overcome it, you can’t build experience.
“The All Blacks went through a transition in 2004 leading into 2007 and lost all sorts of games of rugby as they evolved as a team and the experience they gained at that point you can see coming to the fore at the moment. We’re probably a little bit behind them in that regard but I don’t think we’re that far behind and they know that the gap is closing.”
The All Blacks altered the course of an even game by exploiting a series of counter-attack mismatches from turnovers and kick returns. For example, the first try from the excellent Ben Smith resulted from a clinical attack by Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea and Smith against Dave Wilson, Ben Morgan and Mike Brown.
“The most dangerous part of playing against the All Blacks is when they get the ball on counter attacks or turnover ball,” he added. “Those are the two most dangerous times for a defence because people in the wrong spaces. That’s what they exploited on two or three occasions but it comes as a culmination of an inaccurate kick or a loose offload which puts you under pressure.
“Our defence was exceptional throughout the game. The workrate and attitude of the lads was fantastic but eliminating those little errors is the difference between being the best in the world and just chasing them,” said the England coach.
Lancaster cut a frustrated figure after losing two matches to the world champions by a combined total of six points but highlighted the positives of scoring 27 points and three quarters where they more than matched the hosts.
England now face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Tuesday and with a first tour win the objective this week, Lancaster is adamant the group can round a long season off with a win and carry momentum into the next meeting with New Zealand at Twickenham in November.
“We want to make sure we finish strongly – then everyone can finish the season having won,” he added. “What traditionally happens on these tours is that the touring team tend to struggle in this third Test but that won’t be an issue for us. We’ll be ready for the game.”