In the aftermath of England’s loss against the All Blacks in the first of their 3 match test series there will be a number of things for Head Coach Stuart Lancaster to think about ahead of their second meeting in Auckland next weekend;
1. The All Blacks will get better
New Zealand are quite well known for making slow starts at the beginning of an international series, and today’s game was no different. Whilst they showed flashed of their brilliance, there were a number of errors and a slight lack of cohesion which they will be sure to address ahead of the second test. It’s also important to remember that the likes of Dagg and Cruden will have been a little rusty today whilst the likes of Read could come back into the fold for the rest of the series.
2. Catching must be a priority in training this week
On a number of occasions England’s ability to perform the basic function of catching the ball let them down significantly. This happened a number of times in the loose, but was most obvious during the re-starts as England’s players regularly failed to claim Aaron Cruden’s restarts. This lost England momentum at key moments and put them on the back foot after having just scored points and therefore needs addressing as a priority.
3. The communication needs to improve
There were several examples during the game where England seemed to lack cohesion, this was in part due to a lack of familiarity between players, however there seemed to be a breakdown in communication at times. This was particularly key when New Zealand scored their decisive try as May failed to call players out wide to support him in defence. There were moments like this all over the field however as players got in each other’s way during catches under the high ball.
4. An improved kicking game is imperative
Whilst England’s kicking in the loose was by no means poor, they were lightyears behind New Zealand’s, particularly in attack. This was apparent as the likes of Cruden and Smith put in clever little kicks behind the English defence which caused England all manner of problems. Whilst the likes of Burns and Eastmond tried similar tricks only once did they cause New Zealand any real trouble after May prodded a clever kick through and managed to reclaim it before earning a penalty.
5. Danny Care is England’s stand out Scrum Half
Whilst Ben Youngs did a decent job of coming in and deputising in the absence of Care, it became apparent during the game that we missed his quick taps and pace around the fringes. This was particularly apparent as Aaron Smith caused England a number of problems with his quick thinking as he got over the gainline on a number of occasions. The return of Care will likely provide England with a boost and help to tie in more All Black defenders around the rucks to open up space out wide.
6. Haskell has to be a serious consideration for the next test
Despite being the most capped player in England’s side today, many people questioned the inclusion of Haskell in Stuart Lancaster’s starting side. After a fantastic season at Wasps, Haskell proved he can maintain his form at international level as he came out on top of the tackling stats for England whilst seeming to never be more that a few metres away from wherever the ball was. Once he came of he quite literally became England’s biggest cheerleader and seems to have really bought into England’s current ethos under Lancaster.
7. Jonny May has shown his potential
Whilst May will likely be disappointed with a number of facets of his game after appearing to be a rabbit caught in the headlights in the first half, he has done enough to show his potential for the future. Question marks will continue to remain over his defence and decision making skills under pressure, however ball in hand he looked really dangerous. He seems to finally have the confidence to back himself in attack so if the coaching team can work on the other sides to his game he could be a really important member of the England squad.
8. Burns seems to have rediscovered his form
Despite coming into the game as England’s fourth choice fly half Burns has done his international credentials no harm at all after an assured performance in the number 10 shirt. His kicking off the tee was spot on throughout the game whilst he controlled the game reasonably well and showed he wasn’t afraid to put in a tackle. He’s going to find it hard to overtake the likes of Farrell, Ford and Myler in England’s pecking order but has proved Lancaster has a number of options in the position at last.
9. Danny Cipriani deserves some game time
Whilst Cipriani only had 10 minutes on the pitch, most of which was spent on the back foot, he showed enough to indicate he deserves another shot in an England shirt. His quick burst with his first touch of the ball led to a penalty which he duly converted to get England back into the game despite England’s pack being on the back foot. Based on this evidence it would be interesting to see how he performs behind an England pack on the front foot when he can use his pace and running game to test defences.
10. The second row is going to cause some serious selection issues
With Launchbury and Lawes seemingly nailing down England’s second row births during the Six Nations, Parling and Attwood have now done enough to cause the coaching team some selection headaches. Parling in particular showed his line-out prowess as the set piece became a key part of England’s game and must now be a serious consideration for the second test. The toughest decision is going to be who to leave out of the team completely next week as Lawes becomes available.
11. Tighthead is still an issue
In Dan Cole and Dave Wilson, England have two decent options at tighthead prop, however behind that England need to develop a genuine third option. It seems a lot of faith has been placed in young Henry Thomas however England’s scrum noticeably weakened as he came on in the second half and must be a concern for Graham Rowntree. England therefore either need to give Thomas some more international game time to give him the experience to compete or look at alternatives such as Harlequins Kyle Sinckler.
What do you think the England coaching team will have learnt from today’s game against New Zealand?