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England in New Zealand 2014
From villains to heroes?
Tom Hamilton
May 30, 2014
Manu Tuilagi will want to avoid jumping off ferries this time around © Getty Images

When England strolled through the Auckland arrival gates on Thursday, the players looked bleary-eyed but excited. The last time an England squad was in Auckland airport, they were preparing to fly back from a disastrous World Cup, one that ruined the team's reputation and led to Stuart Lancaster rebuilding the squad and culture from the ground up.

Rather than returning as heroes, they traipsed into Heathrow as villains. The squad had made more headlines on the front pages than the back as tales of ferry diving, late night escapades in Queenstown involving dwarves, bans for gumshields, ball tampering and general misconduct tarnished English rugby.

Manu Tuilagi makes all the wrong kind of headlines, October 11, 2011
The way they were ... © Daily Mail

Since that fateful World Cup, Lancaster has gone about rebuilding the team. He has hammered home the message of culture and reinforced the need to behave both on and off the field, a message he preached to the media at his first press conference in New Zealand on Thursday. "We are a completely different team culturally in the way we conduct ourselves and hopefully that will be seen by the New Zealanders."

The pressure is now on the players to deliver but above all else, behave. For Lancaster, much if it boils down to just "being a good bloke" and he has ensured egos remain in check.

"When we finished the Rugby World Cup in 2011 I got the interim job, we made 15 changes at that point and we invested our time in a group of young players whose talent and character I trusted and we have stuck with that philosophy ever since," Lancaster said on Thursday. "Perhaps there were players from outside who did not fit in that bracket but they have changed and improved on and off the field and as a consequence I am happy to give them a second chance." For that last part, perhaps, read Danny Cipriani.

It is a tour after all so the players will not be living monk-like existences but for Lancaster, this tour is just as much about rebuilding reputation than it is about delivering on the field.

"I think the players understand we have ground to make up over here, we are not going to sit here and say anything different. We have a reputation to recover and we want to return to England as good ambassadors for our country."

The players will be left in little doubt over what is expected from them on this tour but they must also be allowed to enjoy themselves without overstepping the line.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

Tom Hamilton was brought up near the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum