- Fly half backs England to build on Auckland performance next weekend
- Burns praises pack for accurate, determined showing
Freddie Burns believes a gut-wrenching defeat to New Zealand on Saturday evening at Eden Park will prove to be a springboard for England’s development heading into the remainder of the current three-match series and beyond.
Burns was exceptional at fly half in his first Test start for a year, kicking four penalties from four attempts and marshalling territory and possession with aplomb before being replaced by Danny Cipriani on 71 minutes.
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However, the 24 year-old was then forced to watch from the bench as Conrad Smith crossed for a last-gasp try to snatch victory for the All Blacks in a hugely tense tour opener.
But while he admitted that there was marked disappointment in the away dressing room, the Leicester Tiger-to-be preferred to dwell on some very encouraging aspects of England’s display.
“There were opportunities out there to win the game but we can’t neat ourselves up,” Burns explained. “We’ll get better.
“There’s a lot of improvement to be made, there’s boys to come back. Overall it’s more positive than negative and we’ve got to strive to get better next week.
“Our set-piece was outstanding – scrum and lineout were great. The back row went well, too – Robbo [Chris Robshaw], Morgs [Ben Morgan] and Hask [James Haskell].
“I thought we controlled the middle area of the pitch well and created opportunities. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite take them and they did.”
Despite enduring a difficult domestic season with Gloucester Rugby, England’s No.10 slotted back seamlessly into the assured, precise form that characterised his classy outings against Argentina a year ago.
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Linking extremely effectively with midfield duo Kyle Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi, Burns ensured Stuart Lancaster has some mighty tough decisions as players from Saracens and Northampton Saints become available for selection before the second Test between the nations in Dunedin.
And, highlighting the need for heightened self-belief next weekend, he also stressed that England are in very good shape ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015.
“First and foremost, we’ve proven that 15 months out from World Cup we’ve got real strength in depth in the squad. If we’re making the decisions tough for the coaches, that’s the healthiest position for England to be in.
“All in all it was more of a positive night than a negative one. We’re gutted with the result but it definitely helps us going forward.
“Now we’ve almost got to take a leaf out of their book. Out on the pitch it felt like we could [beat them], but they had that inner fight and just pipped us at the end. That’s where we need to get to, but this has definitely helped us in a positive sense.”