Our own worst enemy
October 10, 2011
Thompson on the rampage against France © Getty Images
Saturday's result was tough to take and I am still really gutted. Defeat is a little easier to take when the opposition has played really well against you on but on this occasion we beat ourselves. This was a major missed opportunity.
A couple of missed tackles and some dropped passes really cost us and that is so frustrating. France may have played some good rugby and kicked well but we had several chances to score and with no pressure on the boys were still dropping balls.
Our scrum was outstanding at times against one of the best scrimmaging outfits around but they defended exceptionally well at the lineout. Our plan was to attack lock Lionel Nallet because some of our homework suggested he didn't normally jump but all of a sudden he was jumping like a salmon. We managed to straighten things out after the first couple of throws but you have to give credit to France for the way they were able to disrupt us there in the first few minutes.
A couple of missed tackles let them in for tries which was really disappointing but we never felt out of the contest. We knew that we just needed to get a score ourselves and the pattern of the match would change but a couple of tries went begging and we went into the break still chasing the game. But the effort was clearly taking its toll on France because we could see that they were on their knees. With ten minutes to go in the first half they were clearly gone - we had given ourselves a mountain to climb but were confident of turning it around.
There was no panic at half time and we were still full of belief and convinced that the game was still there to be won. We raised our game after the break knowing that we had to take it to them and we did just that. Suddenly France were going down every couple of minutes with injuries desperately trying to get a break of some kind.
Ben Foden's try fuelled our belief and the comeback was on when Marc Cueto scored but left it just a little bit too late. If only we had scored - just once - in that first half. It's strange how a team's psyche changes through a game. The longer you manage to deny a team any kind of score, the stronger you get and it is easy to defend, defend and defend. But when your defence has been breached and someone has crossed that line thing change psychologically and suddenly you feel more vulnerable. I don't know why, but it does.
It will be no surprise that everyone was gutted at the final whistle and the changing room was a very quiet place. We had been under so much from the outside that we were determined to reach the semi-finals at least but it was not to be. The reality only starts to hit you a day or so later and when you see sides like Australia and Wales booking their place in the semis you are kicking yourself. It could have been us and I cannot stress enough how much of a disappointment our exit is.
The inquest has already begun into where things may have gone wrong but as far as I am concerned Martin Johnson is still the man to guide England. He has done so much with this side since he took charge - you just have to look at where we were before he took over. We won the Six Nations this year and while we may have chucked the game away against France we have shown we can deliver in other big games and there is some great talent coming through.
I don't know what Johnno is going to do but I think when he sits down he will realise that we have achieved a lot in the last few years and there is more to come from this group of players. There have been some great performances, we are on an upward curve and there are still some players coming through.
We also have to be careful we don't over react. I remember after we won the World Cup in 2003 there was a bit of a cull and a lot of the old boys were axed only for the form of the side to suffer a bit of a dip. Naturally there will be players coming to the end of their international careers but this is a building process and it is all about striking the right balance. It is all about finding a blend between experience and youth and carrying it through to the next World Cup in England.
As for my own international career, I'd love to keep playing for England if they think I can still offer something to the team on the field and with my experience. If I want to do that then I have to go back to Wasps and keep playing well and then hope for the best. And there is nothing like the excitement a new club and the need to prove yourself to keep you on your game.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Thompson will be writing direct from the England camp for ESPNscrum each week during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.