- England's Head Coach says players have been “outstanding ambassadors”
- Lancaster looks ahead to “huge” autumn
Despite a chastening defeat to a rampant All Blacks performance in the final Test on Saturday, Stuart Lancaster insists this month’s tour to New Zealand has been a positive experience that will help England on the road to Rugby World Cup 2015.
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The visitors went down 36-13 at Waikato Stadium, thanks largely to a stunning first-half performance from Steve Hansen’s men. Four tries – two each for wing Julian Savea and scrum half Aaron Smith – were scored within the opening 33 minutes to effectively end the contest and close out a 3-0 series victory.
Though clearly frustrated by some early uncertainty in defence, Lancaster highlighted the positive aspects of a largely encouraging trip that defied very difficult circumstances and scheduling.
“I think we showed the strides we’ve made during the Six Nations,” explained England’s Head Coach. “Throughout the Crusaders game and the first Test, in 60 minutes of the second Test and in 40 minutes of the third we showed where we’ve come to as a group.
“Clearly at the highest level you have to do that for the full 80. I can’t fault the players’ effort though, and they’ve been outstanding ambassadors for their country.
“There’s still a long way to go before the World Cup and there are some big games to come. We’ve got 12 games before then and a camp going into it.
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“All that will come into the equation as we get close and we need to narrow it down but I’m confident we have the right group going forward.”
Having begun the series with two excruciatingly tight reverses in Auckland and Dunedin, Lancaster added that there will be no shortage of motivation in autumn when the All Blacks come to Twickenham.
A quartet of November fixtures also sees England face South Africa, Samoa and Australia. While encouraged by the respect his players have won, Lancaster is under no allusions as to the significance of how the group responds.
“[The autumn] is a huge series for us. At that point the players will come off the back of six or seven Premiership games and two European games. They’ll be in good shape and motivated for that series.
“Reading the New Zealand press this morning, they are unbelievably positive about our performances, the way we are approaching the game and the fact that we will be a genuine threat in the World Cup.
“These are the same media that weren’t giving us much credit as we arrived. We’ve made progress.”