England in New Zealand 2014
McGeechan: Tired England still good bet for World Cup
June 22, 2014
England captain Chris Robshaw and team-mates Joe Marler and David Wilson show their frustration © Getty Images
England can have high hopes for next year's World Cup despite looking like a tired team during Saturday's loss to New Zealand, according to Sir Ian McGeechan.
The former British & Irish Lions head coach has insisted that, although England looked off the pace in Hamilton, they are moving in the right direction ahead of hosting the tournament next autumn.
"Sadly this last Test in New Zealand was just a game too far for England," McGeechan wrote in his column for the Sunday Telegraph. "Mentally, emotionally and psychologically they were off the pace and you simply cannot afford to be like that against New Zealand.
"New Zealand were at the other end of the scale, of course. They looked fresh and hungry. They have been building throughout the series and are now looking ahead to the Rugby Championship.
"Their international season has only just begun, England's was ending. There is no escaping the fact that England were half a yard off the pace and looked tired at the end of a long, long season.
"The big plus is that the right things were obviously said at half-time, and England's defence was much better in that second half.
"I would be pretty upbeat now about England's chances going into the autumn internationals and next year's Rugby World Cup. It is not a time for doom and gloom because of one match. It is so easy to take a game out of context.
"Some England players were shadows of their usual selves. Take fullback Mike Brown. He just looked a tired young man."
McGeechan saw signs of encouragement from several England players who shone in the Six Nations earlier this year and highlighted Luther Burrell in particular for praise.
"It was interesting to see how well Luther Burrell did when he came on as a replacement. Both he and Billy Twelvetrees had struggled defensively in the second Test but he had clearly taken that to heart and I thought he defended really positively.
"It just showed what a player can do when you explain to him the effects of what he does or does not do on the field."
And while England might have struggled defensively with the likes of New Zealand star Julian Savea, McGeechan said the tour proved that head coach Stuart Lancaster has exciting attack options of his own.
"One of the positives is that Lancaster now has lots of options in lots of positions so that he can vary his attacking game, even during the course of a match," he said.
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