In most cases a 3-0 loss would be disappointing, but it was far from that for England as they left New Zealand. Each nail biting, gripping test had both teams pushed to their limits.
Not many people knew what to expect going into the first test. With practically half the senior team just competed in the Premiership Final, England were faced with a dilemma that resulted in them calling up some less experienced players such as Yarde, Burns and Eastmond. These players proved their worth in an extremely close first test. It all came down to the last few moments but it was New Zealand’s Conrad Smith who secured the All Black’s victory in the 78th minute with the first try of the match.
After their impressive first test and more players available for selection, England were in high spirits ahead of the second match. They had made 8 changes in total to the starting 23 with 7 of them coming fresh from the Premiership final. In the first half, they dominated as they took a 10 point lead through Marland Yarde and Owen Farrell. Despite holding on to a lead at half time, New Zealand soon bounced back and before England knew it they were lagging 28-13. England tried to turn the game around once more and came frustratingly close at 28-27 but unfortunately for them the clock went red and again, England were left devastated but still hopeful for the last test.
Having already lost the test series, it was still all to play for as England attempted to come away from New Zealand with a win under their belt. Injuries caused more changes amongst the team, involving Burns and Youngs to resume their partnership in the starting XV. Perhaps it was one change too many for the visitors as the All Blacks took control of the game for the first half and scored 4 tries. As England tried to comeback with a try of their own, New Zealand matched it and left the score at 36-13 to finish what was an intense series of test matches.
On reflection, England played remarkably well against the current world champions, but were unable to come away with the win they desperately wanted. However, there are plenty of positives to take from it, one in particular stood out for me.
Throughout this year, England have experienced many problems with selection from injuries and club commitments. This has given plenty of upcoming talent an opportunity to stand up and be considered for the first team. During this time, those players have developed to international standard and given Stuart Lancaster and the team a variety of options. If we look at fly half’s as an example, you have Owen Farrell, George Ford, Freddie Burns, Danny Cipriani and Stephen Myler, who all have international experience behind them. QBE Internationals and Six Nations will give these players a chance to showcase their potential ahead of the world cup.
Losing matches will always be difficult for an international team, yet for the England squad there are encouraging signs from the ever-improving side. They proved that they are not a team to be disregarded or pushed aside. Their upcoming matches will be a true indicator of the teams’ capability and potential before the World Cup next year.